??Questions??

If you are an honest seeker and have questions concerning what Arminians or Calvinists believe then please leave your question in the comment box below.  If you have a question concerning a certain passage of Scripture which relates to either the Calvinist or Arminian view of salvation, feel free to ask. 

We will try to answer questions in a timely manner.  Please understand that our time is limited and that it may be a while before we can leave an answer.  Sometimes we may direct you to posts here or off-site that may provide answers to your specific questions.  Sometimes our answers may be brief and other times our answers may be more detailed and comprehensive.  This will mainly depend on how much time we have to devote to it.  As the comments and answers grow you may be directed to previous comments and answers which have already addressed your question.

This page is not for convinced Calvinists who want to debate.  It is for those who are exploring various approaches to soteriology and would like some guidance in specific areas.

May God bless you as you seek His truth.

Note: Please be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the comments thread and leave your question in the comments box provided.  Please do not use the “reply” buttons at the bottom of comments already made.  Thank you.

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832 Responses

  1. Ben,

    Thanks again for the blog, including the links you’ve provided to other resources. I didn’t know what a deep well I was jumping into when I began studying the Calvinist belief system, but your information has been instrumental at providing me both a framework and history to the different arguments and positions or both sides.

    I have some questions for you regarding the condition of man as it relates to total depravity, and the ability of man to respond to the gospel. I’m not sure if I should just post it here, or if it would be easier to continue via my email address. Either way will be fine with me 🙂

  2. Steven,

    Go ahead and post it here. If the discussion gets long and cumbersome then we can always move the discussion to e-mail. I hope I can be of some help.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. Much has been said in your previous posts and links about man being dead in sin. I agree with what I have been reading, that dead in sin does not necessarily mean incapable of doing anything good. I do not agree with the Calvinist view of Romans 5, regarding the total depravity of man, and our associated “guilt” by way of Adam’s sin.

    That being said, what really happen to mankind when Adam sinned? How am I different than I would have been, had not the first humans disobeyed God? Is it that I now have the ability to discern good and evil? Am I more aware of sin because their eyes were opened? Is it my nature, that is bent toward evil?

    Rather than muddy the water further, what I am trying to determine is – when are people separated from God spiritually? Is it the first time I sin? Was I born separated from God?

    If I need to give you more detail about my question, just let me know!

  4. Steven,

    That is a good question and there are many different opinions among Arminians.

    Most Arminians see total depravity as the corruption that was passed down to us from Adam as a result of his disobedience in the garden. This means that we are bent towards sin from birth and will eventually actualize sin ourselves.

    This is how Arminians understand total depravity. Our depravity makes sinning inevitable and makes it impossible for us to seek God without God’s gracious intervention. On this Calvinists and Arminians agree. Calvinists see this intervention as irresistible regeneration. Arminians see this intervention as resistible prevenient grace. Both affirm inability. The disagreement lies in how God enables the sinner to believe.

    Being dead in sins is further describing inability to a Calvinist since they correlate spiritual death with the inability of a corpse. Arminians see spiritual death as a state of separation and condemnation which results from actual sin. We do not believe that there is Biblical reason to correlate spiritual death with the inability of a corpse since Scripture never makes that comparison and because it would lead to absurdities (i.e. those who are “dead in sin” in this case should not be able to resist the Spirit or reject the gospel either). Arminians also believe that the Bible clearly teaches that faith precedes regeneration.

    Arminians are divided with regards to original sin. Some Arminians affirm racial guilt (that we are born guilty of Adam’s sin and are condemned for that sin). They generally see that God’s grace is imputed in such a way that infants and small children benefit from the atonement automatically, or that they are counted as innocent based on identification with Christ in the incarnation.

    Other Arminians, who reject the imputation of racial guilt, believe that God does not count sin against us until we consciously sin in a manner in which it constitutes a fully moral decision. They would then maintain that children, though they sin from an early age, are not counted as sinners (i.e., their sin is not counted against them) until they reach an age when they become morally accountable (this “age” could vary from child to child depending on the circumstances). In this view children are in a state of innocence, not because they do not sin, but because God does not count their sins against them. They would have a special relationship with God in this sense but this relationship would not be the same as the relationship one attains when they put faith in Christ and come to be in union with Him. It may be that this state of grace prior to an age of accountability is what Paul was describing in Rom. 7:9-11. This “life” would probably be something less than the full spiritual life that we enjoy in Christ through faith.

    Arminians and Calvinist are all over the map on this question because the Bible does not speak very clearly about it. I personally reject racial guilt because I just don’t find the concept clearly taught in Scripture. I do believe that the Bible views children as in a state of grace prior to sinning at an age when they become morally aware enough to be held accountable for that sin. How all this works or exactly how we should define this state of grace/life is mostly speculation.

    The gospel was written and preached with those who are morally accountable for their sins and dead as a result, in mind. They are separated from God in the strongest sense of the word and can only be reconciled to God and enjoy the life that flows from Him through faith and consequent union with Jesus Christ.

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Steven,

    Here is a link to an excellent essay which argues strongly for the Arminian perspective that rejects racial guilt and interacts with the relevant passages. I think you will find it helpful.

    http://www.geocities.com/bobesay/original.html

  6. Ben,

    Both your answer and the article were very helpful in explaining some of the basic thought processes behind the opposing views. Not being trained in a seminary, the various terms for belief systems and the like are foreign to me. All I know are the things I have learned and studied from the word, so the nuances about what people believe aren’t easy for me to understand.

    I see Calvinists referring to Arminians on these blogs as Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian. While I understand the basics behind Pelagian thought, I do not know how men would classify me. As to one of your comments:

    “This is how Arminians understand total depravity. Our depravity makes sinning inevitable and makes it impossible for us to seek God without God’s gracious intervention.”

    What do you mean by “impossible to seek God without God’s gracious intervention”? I have found in scripture that God holds all men accountable for their actions, especially their failure to seek Him even though He is near to us, and we should see His existence from the created world. (Acts 17; Romans 1) I believe that men can do good and do “Godly” things, by obeying the “natural laws” that God placed in the hearts of man according to their conscience. I see Noah finding grace in the eyes of God in spite of an otherwise wicked humanity, and I know that God says he who seeks shall find.

    My understanding is that the power of God is found in the word. It is how the spirit cuts us to the heart, it is how men were convicted of their sins in Acts 2. The gospel needed to be carried into all the world because that’s where the power was. In the words of God through His Son, and through His ambassadors the apostles.

    Is the prevenient grace you describe different from the word of God? Are you implying God changing someone’s heart apart of the word in some miraculous way? Or when Arminians describe prevenient grace, is what I described what they are implying? I’ll be happy to clarify if I need to do so.

    Thanks again!

    -steven

  7. Steven,

    Arminians simply affirm that God must do a work in the heart before one can put faith in Him for salvation. We find support for this in passages like John 6:44; 12:32; 16:8-11; Rom. 2:4; 3:9, 10; Titus 2:11, etc.

    God’s grace can work apart from the gospel enabling a hostile sinner to seek after God (Cornelius would seem to be an example of this, cf. Acts 17:27), but primarily works through the power of the gospel as you have suggested (Hebrews 4:12; Rom. 10:17).

    So God works in many ways to draw us unto Him but we cannot approach Him prior to His gracious initiative.

    Pelagian= no grace needed to seek God and put faith in Him

    Semi-Pelagian= man takes the first step (initiative) and then God’s grace intervenes

    Arminianism= man cannot approach or believe in God apart from His prevenient enabling grace

    Calvinism= God must irresistibly regenerate the “dead” sinner and faith inevitably results

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Ben,

    Thanks as always for your reply. I guess I still don’t understand the view that it is impossible to seek God without some level of enabling on the part of the sinner, from God. You said above that “God’s grace can work apart from the gospel enabling a hostile sinner to seek after God…”
    I know you mention Cornelius, and I can also think of the Ethiopian Eunuch, but in both of those cases God puts an evangelist in their path to explain to them the Way. The same is true for the apostle Paul – God didn’t save him apart from the message from Ananias. These people had in every case demonstrated a desire to follow God previous to their conversion. I guess my question is, what did God perform on their heart separate and apart from His revelation, prior to their hearing it?

    Your cross reference to Acts 17:27 also points out that God placed all of mankind on equal footing. He desires each of us to reach out to him, and even their own poets viewed themselves as children of some greater being. Is there anything needed before man can reach out to God?

    Reply at your convenience good sir, and thanks again for your work.

    -steven

  9. I think I’ve fallen out of God’s grace. Long story, but I had a vision of the heavens tearing and a bright light obliterating me from a picture of my family. Torment has followed me since. Watched the Spirit leave me… my personality, ability to sense God and the Holy Spirit, sense of time and space, all normalcy… gone… constant accusations, no sense of forgiveness… have I become apostate somehow, and is it reversible? I’ve prayed, repented, sought counseling, been hospitalized, had deliverance done… nothing relieves it and it continues… I’m exhaused. Almost two years without a good night’s sleep, losing weight, unable to focus on the positive… isolated from friends, family…

    Why won’t God answer my prayers and break the torment?

    Christi

  10. Only sin separates us from God. Once you have turned from the wrongs you have done in the past, and have asked for forgiveness, then God remembers them against us no more.
    You may not have a “sense of forgiveness”, but that is actually lingering guilt and sorrow for what you have done. God has promised to provide you actual forgiveness through His mediator, Jesus Christ. You can take that to the bank 🙂

    As far as the torment you say you experience, I do not think that is God working to give you sleepless nights.

    We have peace from our relationship with Jesus. Not peace like the world gives, but real peace – knowing that whatever happens in this life, angels will carry us into the next. Go read Psalm 127:2. Meditate on it. God wants you to rest easy, while every one else is so busy with things that don’t really matter.

    Aside from your relationship with God which you can take confidence in, you may have imbalances in your body that require medical attention. Though you should always go to the Father first for your needs, checking it out at the doctor second might shed some light on why you are feeling so down. Know that Jesus walked this earth, and know our weaknesses. He and your brothers and sisters here on earth will be glad to help wherever we can!

    -steven

  11. Steven,

    Very good advice for Christi.

    Christi,

    If you would like to talk I think it would be better if we did it through e-mail.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Steven,

    Regarding your question,

    These people had in every case demonstrated a desire to follow God previous to their conversion. I guess my question is, what did God perform on their heart separate and apart from His revelation, prior to their hearing it?

    I don’t know exactly what God performed in their hearts but if their hearts are bent towards sin and rebellion (the doctrine of total depravity) then their needs to be a work of God in order for them to re-orient themselves towards God in any meaningful way (which would include any kind of “seeking”). Cornelius had responded to the prevenient grace of God under the old dispensation and God did not leave him without the further revelation of His Son. He was one of the “other sheep” that Christ spoke of in John 10 and in that context Christ’s “sheep” are those who are in right covenant relationship with the Father. These are “given” to the Son by the Father (John 6:37).

    It still seems to me that God was at work in Cornelius heart prior to him hearing and accepting the gospel. The reference in Acts tells us that God does indeed intend for His creatures to seek after Him that they may find Him. The Arminian only asserts that man cannot even begin to seek God in His depraved state without God’ prevenient grace intervening.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  13. Ben,

    Thanks as always for the response. I guess I need to understand “prevenient grace” a little better. From the surface view, it almost feels like the Calvinist view of regeneration preceding faith. Trying to fit this into what I understand the word to teach, would prevenient grace be found in the following:

    Teaching of the word (1st Timothy 4:16)
    A person’s conscience (Romans 2:15)
    God’s creation (Romans 1:20)

    I’m not quite sure I understand the entire concept of the need for pre-grace. I’ll keep reading up on it through things I find, but for now maybe you can answer me on the above. I’m not try to beat a dead horse, and I am as honest a seeker as I can be, so don’t feel like you are wasting your time on our dialogue 🙂 I’m just trying to learn!

    -steven

  14. Steven,

    I think all of those passages give us clues as to what prevenient grace is and how it works. Wesley saw the conscience as nearly synonymous with prevenient grace and did not see it as a natural endowement. I think God’s Spirit works through our conscience to recognize our need for Him so that we might begin to seek Him (the law makes us conscious of sin and our need for a Savior, etc.).

    Maybe the case of Lydia will help. Lydia heard the gospel but the Lord still needed to “open her heart” to receive and benefit from what she heard,

    “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” (Acts 16:14)

    And notice Acts 18:27,

    “On arriving he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.

    I could refer you to some articles and posts on prevenient grace if you like. Let me know and feel free to ask for more clarification if needed.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  15. I am a member of a Bible church where the elders recently proposed becoming a member of the Fellowship of Reformed Evangelicals (FIRE) (www.firefellowship.org)

    Our Elders say that our church’s Articles of Faith are in full and complete agreement with the FIRE Doctrinal Statement. In my opinion, the FIRE DS represents giant leaps forward, far beyond our A of F.

    I personally can agree with everything in our A of F, except for one clause of seven words. But there are many things in the FIRE DS that I strongly disagree with.

    I assert that our A of F clearly teaches that faith preceds regeneration. The Elders interpret our A of F differently and assert that regeneration preceds faith both logically and temporally.

    The Elders say that regeneration sometimes preceds faith by months or possibly years. I suspect that this position is more or less a new or renewed feature of Calvinism, since I know that some Calvinists believed differently. I’m curious about what experts on the history of Calvinistic thought would say about this.

    I recently read several articles from your blog and from other sister sites, especially on the topic of regeneration and faith. I agree wholeheartedly. Now I can just pass on your excellent work without trying to re-create the wheel.

    I believe that theologians like yourself and Robert Picirilli would agree with my opinions stated above. I’m looking for some volunteers who would read and comment on our A of F, the FIRE DS, and the analytical document that I am preparing.

    Are there any volunteers?

    There are a significant number of non-calvinists in our church, a lot of people with little knowledge of the issues, and a lot of people who are strongly calvinistic. In my opinion, this issue should not be a test of fellowship or a test of church membership. I believe it is possible to achieve unity in spite of this diversity in theological opinion. Currently this outcome seems very unlikely in light of the recent calvinistic emphasis and the FIRE membership proposal. I would appreciate hearing advice and experiences regarding attempts at unity with this type of theological diversity.

  16. Hello,

    I have been interested in the idea that much of the Calvinist’s thinking is shaped by Greek philosophers such as Plato. Now Open Theists are arguing the same concerning the Arminian perspective of omniscience, omnipresence, etc. I tend to agree concerning the Calvinist interpretation but want to stop short of indicting the Arminian in the same way. I feel as if I am being biased in my judgment (because I am not in agreement with Calvinism or Open Theism). Could you please comment on this? Thank you for your time!

  17. Max,

    Sorry it has taken me awhile to get to your question. I would start by praying about the situation (as I am sure you have) and then ask to meet with the leadership, particularly those elders you mention. Let them know where you stand on the issues that concern you and ask them if they are willing to embrace members with different views like yourself. If you are not very active in the church it may not matter much. But if you are active in ministry and especially in teaching, the issue becomes magnified if, for instance, you are asked to teach on doctrines you do not agree with.

    I would say that remaining in the fellowship should be your goal if at all reasonable, but if you begin to feel like the church is moving in a direction, as a whole, that you do not feel you can follow, then I would consider breaking fellowship and finding a church that agrees with your basic views of soteriology, or at least does not take a stand against them. Really, it is up to you. If the elders express to you that they want to emphasize Calvinist doctrines then it may be impossible for you to remain.

    Not sure if that helps but that would be my approach. The most important things should be to pray and meet with the leadership and find out whether or not you can continue to fellowship there in good faith. I would say that leaving the church should be a last resort and should not be a rash decision. May God lead you in your decision.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Lyn,

    One can find such concepts as foreknowledge and omniscience expressed in Scripture well enough without the need to appeal to any Greek philosophy. I personally came to believe these things about God from reading the Bible long before I ever heard any such thing from Greek philosophy.

    Some OT’s focus more on immutability as being a Greek development. I believe the Bible is clear that in God’s essential nature He does not change and that this is rather clearly taught in Scripture. However, I do believe that God can genuinely interact with His creatures in the sense of influence and response. I think OT’s generally take this interaction too far in denying God the ability to know the future but I don’t think the Bible presents a static Deity either. There are aspects of God that are dynamic while His essential nature remains unchanged. It may come down to how we define “perfection” but that might take us too far afield.

    OT’s are generally concerned that God becomes depersonalized in certain definitions of immutability and I share that concern as well. But again, I think they go too far in the other direction. Arminianism presents a more balanced view while OT and Calvinistic determinism would be considered by Arminians to be too extreme in opposite directions. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. Yes,

    I would like to know about more reading materials from the Arminian perspective.

    Can you recommend books and audio tapes/cds?

    Some on eschatology as well?

    With every good wish.

    All the systematic theologies are calvinistic, where are the arminian ones? Or least non-calvinist ones?

    Sincerely,

    Donald

    p.s.

    you can correspond privately as well.

    my email address

    galatians2_6@yahoo.com

    please place your blog address in the subject line. Thank you God Bless!

  20. joyfulfreedom1,

    There are quite a few resources at this site. If you look at the side bar on the right you will find numerous links to articles from an Arminian Perspective. There are also recommended books and numerous blogs and web-sites written from an A perspective. I would also recommend you visit SEA for a wealth of Arminian links, articles, posts, and resources. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. I am on a quest to find a new Bible. My ideal Bible would be a single-column, text-only, wide-margin, no references, non-study Bible. Good, large print. No “section headers.” I kind of like red-letter, but I’m open. Smyth sewn binding. Very supple calfskin or similar. Over a year ago I purchased a TNIV Books of the Bible, which doesn’t even have verse or chapter numbers, which is ideal, but it is only paperback, and it has almost no margins. I am also open to a number of translations. My “main” current Bible is NASB, but I regularly refer to KJV, TNIV, NIV, Tanakh, Jewish New Testament, New English Bible with Apocrypha, RSV… Basically, I just want the Word of God by itself as close in format to early manuscripts as I can get. I don’t want anybody else’s theology or “dividing” the Word for me. I have read good things about the ESV, but I do not own one… Would somebody like to offer a recommendation that will satisfy as many items on my “wish list” as possible? This site seems like a good place to seek assistance. My sincere, humble thanks for all who respond.

  22. Kimble,

    I am sorry but I don’t think I am the best person to ask that question. I rarely shop for Bibles. I have a few and make do with what I have. As far as translations I think the NASB is very close to the Greek and also very readable. The NIV is even more readable, but a little less precise. The RSV is a very strict translation and not as readable. I haven’t read much from the ESV yet so I really can’t comment on that. If you want something that really tries to be faithful to the Greek, you might like Young’s Literal translation.

    As far as different packaging styles, I really know as little or less than you do. I would look to Zondervan or CBD or other places that sell or manufacture Bibles for those kinds of specifics. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  23. Kanga, as an Arminianist, you may be able to direct me to a translation that at least isn’t forcing Calvinist/Darbyite/Scofield theology on the reader through its scriptural cross-referencing and “study” notes. That’d be refreshing for a change. Bless you, brother.

  24. Kimble,

    I am not a huge fan of study Bibles, but I was given a Life in the Spirit study Bible and have enjoyed it very much. It is written from a Pentecostal Arminian perspective. It has good notes and some very good articles (especially on election/predestination and apostasy). Like any study Bible, I don’t agree with everything, but it is still a good resource.

    Also, you may be interested in the newly released Wesley Study Bible. I haven’t read it, but I assume it is close to what you are looking for. Definitely written from an Arminian perspective.

    Hope that helps.

  25. Kimble,

    BTW, the Pentecostal Life in the Spirit Bible is definitely influenced by Darby/Scofield with regards to eschatology (as far as pre-trib secret rapture, etc.). That is one of the parts I disagree with. But I still think it is a great study Bible.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  26. Hi Ben, I am really shaken right now. I was raised in a Christian household, but never really fully trusted and surrendered everything to God even though I had asked Him into my life. I worshiped and believed in Him. But then in my early 20s something really heart wrenching happened that caused me to in essence turn my back on Him and I fell into sin(sexually) for a couple years. I never denied Him but largely ignored Him. I returned to the faith but still struggled with sexual sin and was always losing the battle. Finally, dr’s found a tumor in my neck. It turned out to be a benign one that could eventually come back and be malignant. During the six weeks of wondering what it was, God fully broke me. I was on my knees every day crying and repenting. Early in my Christian life I wanted Him to do things for me, but now I only want Him. Since that scare everything has changed in my life. I no longer has a desire for sin. I am reading the scriptures non stop and finally finding out what they all say. I can across the troubling verses in Hebrews and was shocked and am terrified that they are talking about me when I turned my back on Christ and sinned. How do I know that it is not too late for me? I was brought up with a once saved always saved mentality that led to complacency and now I am terrified because I didn’t know those verses in Hebrews.

    Thanks
    William

  27. Samuel or William (?),

    I recommend that you read my post on the nature of apostasy in Hebrews:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-11-can-apostates-be-restored/

    From what I have read of your experience you have not committed apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10. That apostasy is the result of a heart so hardened by sin that repentance is impossible. Those who commit such apostasy will never again desire a relationship with the Lord. This is not the case with you. Your writing this post to me and the concern you have over your spiritual state is clear evidence that you have not commited apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10. If you had, you would not want anythng to do with God and you would not be concerned about your spiritual condition. Here is a quote from that post,

    Sin can lead to apostasy by hardening the heart to the point of unbelief. That is why sin is such a dangerous thing and should never be trivialized in the life of the believer. If believers persist in sinful living and refuse to repent, irrevocable apostasy may be just around the corner. This “sinning” could be the unrepentant indulgence of the flesh, or the gradual tolerance of false teaching. There is still hope of restoration and repentance prior to the decisive act of willful unbelief. We can therefore be sure that if one desires to repent and be restored to right relationship with the Lord that irrevocable apostasy has not yet occurred.

    Here is another quote that I took from F. Leroy Forlines,

    I believe that we can rest assured that the person who comes to talk to us about his or her fears of having committed the unpardonable sin does not fit the description of the people described in 2 Peter 2:20, 21; Hebrews 6:4-6; and 10:26-29. If there is concern to be restored to a right relationship with God, such a person has not committed apostasy. (The Quest For Truth, pg. 284)

    If you are truly desiring a relationship with God as you indicate then my advice to you would be to rest assured in the promise that those who come to Christ will not be cast out or turned away (John 6:37), and continue to draw closer to God in faith and love (again, if you are desiring a relationship with the Lord then that is clear evidence that you have not committed irrevocable apostasy). I would pray that God replaces your fear with assurance and comfort in His love and acceptance, that you might experience the peace of God which transcends understanding (Phil. 4:7). I will be praying for you as well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. Ben, thanks for the reply. I have read just about every commentary I could get my hands on on this subject matter. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to respond to my concerns.

    I’ve read your post on the matter several times through and it seems very reasonable. The areas which you have just quoted for me have been my greatest comfort because they essentially say that if you want to repent, if you want Christ to be your Lord, if you want to love Him then that is proof that you have not committed irrevocable apostasy. I just wish there was something biblical that says this instead of a commentators opinion.

    What still concerns me is the issue off not being able to be renewed to repentance. Now I am not a greek scholar so I go by what commentaries might say. In one, the author stated that the impossibility is not in the apostate’s ability to repent, but that it will avail nothing to God. He further went on to give the example of Esau who weeped and still found no place for repentance.

    How does one draw the line between being the irrevocable apostate and the wanderer of James 5:19? Biblically speaking. Do I have a misunderstanding about Esaus wanting to repent?

    Thanks for your time,

    William

    Therefore when I take a verse such as John 6:37 my min

  29. William,

    Considering the context of the passage, and the overall view of apostasy throughout the epistle, I think the example of Esau poses no real problem to the view of apostasy I have described as consistent with the inspired writer’s view. It seems to me that Esau is used as an example, in that passage, for three reasons. First, he is used to show that the inheritance of salvation is precious and should not be treated lightly (as Esau despised his birth right). Second, to show the great disparity in value between salvation in Christ and the emptiness of Judaism without Christ (contrasting the value of Esau’s birthright with a bowl of soup- also the need to endure suffering for the sake of something greater, just as Esau should have endured his hunger a little longer for the sake of preserving his birth right, cf. 12:1-4). Third, to show that once salvation has been despised, it cannot be recovered. Esau’s tears were not tears of repentance, but tears of regret for forfeiting his inheritance once that became a reality to him. In that sense, we might see it in an eschatological sense for the apostate. His tears will come when he stands before the Lord and fully realizes what he has lost. I think the eschatological emphasis really fits the context, as the writer emphasizes final salvation throughout the epistle. Also, the “repentance” could refer to Isaac, and not Esau. In that sense, it would mean that Isaac would not change his mind (repent) and give Esau the inheritance he lost.

    So it is not a case of wanting to return to the Lord, and not being allowed to (as the one commentator apparently suggested). Rather, it is a reminder of the finality of the apostate’s decision being fully realized at judgment, when nothing more can be done to change the eternal loss of inheritance. The apostate would never seek a lost inheritance with tears in this world, since he is convinced that no such inheritance exists for him.

    Repentance has to do with a change of attitude and heart (Heb. 6:1). It is a spiritual re-orientation. That is how the term is used and understood in the epistle with regards to salvation. So just the basic meaning of repentance removes any possibility that one can want salvation and simply be denied by God (unless that person is seeking salvation on his own terms, i.e., not according to faith in Christ). Therefore, when the writer says one cannot be renewed again to repentance, it includes the reality that the person will not ever again desire to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ. Such a desire would constitute the change in spiritual orientation that largely defines “repentance”. So the fact that you desire a relationship with Christ underscores the fact that you have not committed apostasy as defined in Hebrews (though, if you read my post, I wouldn’t necessarily say that you did not commit a lesser form of apostasy, described elsewhere in Scripture, that is remedial). So when you write,

    The areas which you have just quoted for me have been my greatest comfort because they essentially say that if you want to repent, if you want Christ to be your Lord, if you want to love Him then that is proof that you have not committed irrevocable apostasy. I just wish there was something biblical that says this instead of a commentators opinion.

    …I think the Bible does address it in the very way the writer of Hebrews defines and uses “repentance” in the context of Heb. 6:1-6. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  30. Thank you very much Ben for clearing this up. I’ve struggled with this for a long time and now I can finally put it to rest. The one thing I can see is that God then never gave up on me and that he chastised me to bring me to repentance which I now genuinely have. I am still sifting through both doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism. If its not to much to ask could you point me toward some trustworthy resources that address certain aspects of Arminianism.

    1. When Christ says that no one can pluck us out of his hand. I’m not worried about anyone taking me out of his hand, but rather the devil through deception. Doesn’t the Arminian view kind of make this statement powerless?

    2. Also something on Romans 9 that you trust.

    I don’t expect you to answer these, but if could point me in the right direction I’d be much obliged.

    Thanks
    Wiliam

  31. William,

    I would be happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, but I won’t get to it until Monday at the earliest. There are plenty of links to Arminian interpretations of Romans 9 here on the right side bar under “Election/Predestination”, and I can point you to more on Monday, or shortly thereafter.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  32. From an Arminian perspective, I am wondering:

    1. How does the concept of prevenient grace appear in the O.T.? Or does it?

    2. How does the arminian concept of God’s sovereignty apply to the myriad of texts that refer to God stirring up people to war or bringing things to pass through all sorts of means (natural disasters, to random arrows accomplishing the death of someone, etc.) I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the common texts used to ask this question.

    I’m really giving arminian perspectives a fresh look and am genuinely curious about many things.

    thanks

  33. William,

    You wrote,

    1. When Christ says that no one can pluck us out of his hand. I’m not worried about anyone taking me out of his hand, but rather the devil through deception. Doesn’t the Arminian view kind of make this statement powerless?

    I am not sure I know what you are asking here. I guess you are thinking that if the devil could pluck us out through deception, that would render the promise meaningless. If that is the case, then I think the concern is invalid.

    Believers are given all that they need to continue in the faith and remain in Christ (2 Pet. 1:3-11). The devil cannot deceive them irresistibly. We do not have to give in to the devil’s deception, so he is powerless to pluck us out of God’s hands. The only way we could view deception as negating this promise is to view deception as impossible to resist or overcome through the grace of God. Arminians do not hold to this, so their view does not negate the promise here.

    We need to remember that the promise is given only to Christ’s sheep, who are presently trusting in Christ (“following” and “listening” to Him, verse 27). So long as we are trusting in Christ, nothing can remove us from Him (since we are united to Him through faith). However, the promise does not extend to unbelievers. God does not hold unbelievers and unbelievers can have no union with Christ. If a believer ceases to “listen” and “follow”, and turns to unbelief, then the promise of John 10:27-29 simply does not apply. It is not a matter of a promise failing or becoming powerless. It is a matter of who the promise is directed to. It is directed to believers and believers only. For more on this and similar passages that Calvinist appeal to in order to support inevitable perseverence, see here.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  34. To add to Ben’s reply, saying that Jesus’ promise that no one can snatch us out of his hand would be meaningless if we could follow Satan’s deception away from the Father’s hand of our own free will would be like saying that the promise of 1 Cor 10:13 is meaningless, which promises that we never have to succumb to temptation but always have God’s power to resist it. That is one of the most precious promises in all of Scripture, a real bedrock of practically living the Christian life. I would find it incredible if anyone could consider that promise empty or meaningless. The promise in John is similar. It is comforting and assuring to know that nothing can overpower us to forsake the Lord or to take away our blessing in him. The issue was even more pressing in the first century world in which many feared supernatural powers and magic (you can see this type of concern come out especially in Ephesians and Colossians). While succumbing to Satan’s deception is a possibility by our own free choice–remember Paul concern for the Corinthians: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3)–by God’s grace and protective hand we never have to fall to Satan’s deception, but rather we are protected by the power of God *through faith* (1 Pet 1:5) (i.e., as we continue to trust in him). Thanks be to God!

  35. Mike,

    You wrote,

    1. How does the concept of prevenient grace appear in the O.T.? Or does it?

    I think the concept of prevenient grace does appear in the OT, though, as with many doctrines, it is not as developed as in the NT. The same could be said of the doctrine of the Trinity, the final resurrection, and eternal punishment for the wicked. Arminians see John 6:44, and John 12:32 as teaching prevenient grace. Both passages speak of being “drawn” to God, and John 6:44 presents this drawing as necessary for anyone to come to Christ. An Old Testament parallel to this concept of drawing would be the Lord’s words to Israel in Jeremiah 31:3,

    “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

    Truly, God worked to draw Israel to Himself, and fully enabled His people to respond in faith and love (see here for a closer look at God’s prevenient grace in Israel through the perspective of Romans 9). Yet, just as today, not all of Israel responded positively to the Lord’s drawing. The Lord says in Isaiah 5:1-2 that He had carefully prepared Israel to produce fruit. Yet, in verse 4, the Lord complains,

    “What more was there to do for My vineyard that was not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?”

    It seems clear from this passage that God carefully and thoroughly worked in His people that they might produce the fruits of love and faithfulness (characterized by justice and righteousness, verse 7). Despite this work, His people still responded in rebellion and idolatry. This presents a strong picture of resistible prevenient grace from the OT. The Lord Himself said that He had done enough in His people for them to produce the desired fruit. He was therefore justified in His anger and judgment towards His people, who had spurned His work in them (verse 3). In verses 5-6 the Lord pronounces judgment on His people for spurning His grace. It seems that a part of this judgment consisted of a removal of that prevenient grace that they had continually spurned (verses 6, cf. 6:9-12). God would remove His gracious intervention, thereby allowing them to be hardened in their unbelief and rebellion.

    2. How does the arminian concept of God’s sovereignty apply to the myriad of texts that refer to God stirring up people to war or bringing things to pass through all sorts of means (natural disasters, to random arrows accomplishing the death of someone, etc.) I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the common texts used to ask this question.

    As far as your second question, each case needs to be examined exegetically. In general, God is certainly in control of His creation. Nothing happens that he does not directly cause or permit. God can certainly direct the path of a random arrow, and God can use physical disasters for His purposes. He can also use one nation to bring judgment on another nation, if He so pleases. Arminians do hold that God endows man with a measure of free will, and holds him accountable for how he uses that freedom. God may even override the will on occasion, but God does not control the will to evil, nor does He cause His creatures to irresistibly love Him and trust in Him.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  36. William,

    Here is a link to several Arminian resources on Romans 9.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  37. How does the Arminian understanding of soteriology deal with the text of 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4?

    Thanks
    Mike

  38. Mike,

    What do you see in this passage that is supposed to be challenging to Arminian soteriology?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  39. I suppose the notion of Paul being certain God had chosen them because of the power of the Spirit resulting from the gospel?

  40. Mike,

    Thanks for the clarification. You wrote,

    I suppose the notion of Paul being certain God had chosen them because of the power of the Spirit resulting from the gospel?

    …or their receiving the message with joy, i.e. because they believed the gospel? (verse 6)

    Verses 6-10 are a continuation of Paul’s expression of confidence in verses 4 and 5, and clarify that Paul’s confidence in their election was based on their receiving the gospel in faith and demonstrating this faith through faithful service. This perfectly fits an Arminian soteriology which teaches that election is conditional on being joined to Christ (the “elect One”), and that the condition for being joined to Christ is faith.

    The great conviction, or assurance, could mean several things. It could be that the apostle’s preaching was full of conviction (i.e. they preached with great confidence in the message, and that message was confirmed with demonstrations of power). It could mean that the Thessalonians received the message as a direct result of the Spirit’s conviction (though this would not necessitate that the conviction caused their faith irresistibly). It could mean that the apostle’s assurance or conviction of the effectiveness of the gospel, was simply that they believed (i.e. received the message in the joy of the Spirit; became imitators of the apostle’s faith and service; turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven who rescues them from the coming wrath, etc.).

    The main point is that there is nothing in this passage that necessitates an unconditional election interpretation. A Calvinist could read that into the text, but the passage alone can be easily understood in ways that are in perfect harmony with Arminian soteriology.

    BTW, Calvinists contend that election cannot be certain until one perseveres to the end in saving faith. They maintain that many seem to receive the gospel and even live with impressive testimonies, but ultimately prove that they were never elect when they eventually fall away. This would make it impossible for Paul to be certain of their elect status simply because they seemed to initially receive the gospel.

    However, if my interpretation is correct and election is conditioned on faith union with Christ, then Paul could express confidence in their election based on their initial response to the gospel. Furthermore, if Paul had full confidence in their election based solely on their initial reception, why then does he tell them that after that event he feared that they might not have continued in the faith (3:5)?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  41. Thanks Ben.

  42. Ben

    I have really appreciated your patience and willingness to answer my questions I’ve had up to this point. They’ve been very valuable in me processing through some of this stuff…

    A couple years back, I heard Tim Keller give this example of two people who for all practical purposes shared a very similar life/background and attended the same college. After hearing the same gospel presentation, one repented and believed the other did not. The question was in regards to election, so he began to work back to answer why one believes and one does not.

    The girl who believed could say–because I repented and believed. The question is why did you and not your college roommate? The reasons would continue until maybe she would say “I humbled myself–or I applied wisdom” etc. To which Keller infers that ultimately someone’s salvation is because they are more humble or wise, if they are to reject unconditional election.

    So, it seems that he’s saying salvation is conditional upon repentance and belief but election is not.

    Have you heard this type of example? What do you say to these types of analogies from a Scriptural perspective?

    Thanks

  43. Mike,

    This argumentation is very popular and has convinced many to embrace Calvinism. I personally find it very weak, but many people find it compelling. A few observations,

    1) This is purely a philosophical argument. There is nothing wrong with philosophical argumentation if it is sound, but Calvinists often chide non-Calvinists for relying too much on philosophy- yet the single most used Calvinist argument is purely philosophical!

    2) How many believers do you know who boast about being more humble or wise than the unbeliever? My guess is none. The best a Calvinist can do is claim that the person “could” boast, even if he doesn’t. But that is easily reversible. A Calvinist “could” boast in the fact that God hand-picked him from all eternity to be saved, while passing over so many others.

    The typical response would be that the person was not chosen based on anything about that person, or any response made by that person. Well, then why did God choose that person? Surely He had a good reason, didn’t He? Surely His choice was not arbitrary, was it? The response will be that God did have a reason, but it is hidden in God and has nothing to do with us. Well, doesn’t God choose according to His infinite wisdom? Wouldn’t God’s choice of the person then be an infinitely wise choice on the part of God? Truly it would be hard for someone handpicked by God according to His infinite wisdom, to not feel a little better than those who were passed over, correct? And we could go on and on (you might also find this post
    helpful with regards to this topic of unconditional election).

    3) The issue is not whether or not someone might possibly be able to boast, but whether or not a person has legitimate grounds for boasting. Many Calvinist are very arrogant and boastful. Many Calvinist tend to look down on anyone who disagrees with them. The same could be said of Arminians (though I think to a lesser extent).

    The Bible is clear that one cannot boast in salvation due to the law of faith. And why is that? Because faith is simple trust in another. I cannot legitimately boast in my salvation, because I can do nothing to save myself. I cannot forgive myself, or justify myself, or atone for myself, or regenerate myself. Only God can do those things. All I can do is trust in Him to do what I cannot. It is simply the receiving of a free and unmerited gift according to the Biblical principle (or law) of faith,

    “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:4, 5)

    Paul’s point is simple and purposeful. Faith is not a work and is non-meritorious for the simple fact that it receives a free and unearned gift from God. It should also be pointed out that anyone can trust. You don’t have to be especially wise to trust. All kinds of people can trust and do trust in various ways every day. So to say that if one person trusts God and another does not it means that one is smarter than the other, is simply not in harmony with everyday experience

    So according to Paul, there is no “legitimate” grounds for boasting (though people can still boast in things illegitimately), since salvation is not earned (we do not deserve it), but freely received by faith. It is this fact that establishes salvation as gracious (since we do not deserve it or merit it by simply trusting God),

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

    So, it seems that he’s saying salvation is conditional upon repentance and belief but election is not.

    That is what it seems to come down to, but I think such a distinction is illogical. Let me paste in some portions of a conversation I had with someone in the combox of “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?”,

    Me: It seems like double talk to say that faith is the condition for salvation and to say that Christ meets that condition for us. If Christ fulfills the condition for us then for us it is unconditional because we do not need to fulfill the condition. Does that make sense? Are you suggesting that Christ believes for us? Of course not, so I don’t see how even a Calvinist can say that we do not need to meet the condition of faith unless they want to say that Christ or God believes for us.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/does-regeneration-precede-faith/#comment-1596

    Her: It is still conditional. The only person who is saved is the one who possesses faith, if they don’t have faith, they are not saved.

    Allow me to illustrate: A rich man’s son has given out index cards to some of his father’s servants. His father stands before the servants and says , some of you will be given an inheritance, but you will only be given an inheritance if you have a card given to you by my son.
    That is conditional. They are given the inheritance on condition that they possess a card given to them by the rich man’s son. The servants are only given the inheritance if they fulfill the condition, if they possess the card.

    Same thing with faith. If a person dies without possessing faith, they are not saved. I am sure you would agree with that statement.

    Me: The Bible does not describe faith as an object that God just drops into our head or heart. It is an act of trust. It is an act of submission and surrender. It is the receiving of a free gift. It is not a thing. In your example they are given an inheritance not based on whether or not they have a card, but whether or not they were “chosen.” The card is simply a symbol of their election. It is not a condition for being chosen. The choosing is arbitrary and the inheritance is given because of an unconditional choice.

    Now if the rich man offered a card to everyone and they chose whether or not to receive the card, then we would say that having the card (or receiving the card) is the condition for receiving the inheritance (and imagine the silliness of someone receiving the card and then claiming that they gave the inheritance to themselves). In the Bible the condition is faith because by faith we receive the free gift of salvation. In Calvinism salvation is irresistibly given and faith is just a result, part of the salvation package.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/does-regeneration-precede-faith/#comment-1607

    Here are some other posts that might help with your overall question,

    Is Arminian Theology Synergistic?
    The Nature of Saving Faith
    Examining Inconsistencies in Calvinistic Monergism Part 2: Sanctification

    Hope that helps,
    Ben

  44. Ben,

    Thanks a lot for those resources. I’ve been reading through the evangelicalarminians.org website. Everything makes sense to me but why do I get the feeling that we or those that hold to an arminian theology are in an extreme minority. Is that true?

    Also, a quick question about the prodigal son. In looking for books on the arminian perspective I stumbled upon a book online called “The Believers Conditional Security,” by Dan Corner. I looked up the reviews on amazon.com and saw 45 5 stars and two 1 stars so I naturally looked at what the one stars had to say. Something that stood out was a critic on how the author and arminians use the prodigal son story to say salvation could be lost and then be gained back. I’ll quote him here:

    Another example of logic would be his position on the prodigal son. Here is a parable that pictures the love of God as well as a rebuke to the Pharisees that stood there complaining that Jesus receives sinners. I love setting up Dan Corner disciples when I come across them as I ask them if the Pharisees were saved people in that chapter and they all answer no to that. My question then is if they realize that the hateful son in this parable is Jesus referring to the Pharisees standing there? Surprisingly, Dan Corner disciples say that they know that Jesus parable was referring too to the Pharisees standing there to rebuke them. However, they fail to think through this one as well. If Dan is going to argue his logic then we are going to have problems in interpreting this passage. Just a minute ago, I had a Dan Corner disciple admitting that Pharisees are not saved and then telling me that the hateful son was a rebuke to the Pharisee standing there. How then is the one son picturing salvation as he comes running home and the unsaved Pharisee standing with him in the same kingdom? Confused? Well, according to Dan, this shows a man that was saved and then lost it and was saved again later. Let’s use that same logic and see if you can spot the problems. 1st, both sons are always referred to as “sons” and never was he described as anything other than a son. 2nd, if you pay attention to that passage then you notice that he got it better the second time he supposedly got saved. He got a ring and a robe and new sandals and God kissed him and prepared a fatted calf for his return. Wow! I say that we all lose our salvation so that we can have it better the second time around!! This is why reading logic into Scripture can be dangerous.

    Sorry Dan, the prodigal son parable is not a picture of how God saves a man twice but to expose the hearts of the Pharisees who professed to be righteous and strict law abiders. It showed the Pharisees how they were hateful and against God’s love, mercy and grace. This passage is dealing with Jewish people who were in a covenant relation with God, which made THEM ALL children of the covenant (covenant children and not children of grace) as this was not the case for Gentiles at this time. This is why an unsaved hateful Pharisee during this time was called a son (by covenant and not by grace). Remember, arguing by Dan’s theology, no man that hates his brother is saved as he abides in death according to 1st John, but he conveniently doesn’t point out that the Pharisee here was referred to by Jesus as a son. Keep this in mind those of you that believe you can lose your salvation so that you can tell someone that asks you why Jesus referred to the Pharisees as sons as referring only to the covenant made to the children of Israel that today is put aside for an age.

    This kind of threw me off because as a backslider myself, I found comfort in the fact that the prodigal was a son like me who then left and backslid but then was able to come back. How do you view this verse? Thanks so much for your time and help

    William

  45. William,

    I read Dan’s book and thought that much of it was excellent in refuting unconditional eternal security. Some of his arguments are not as strong as others, and some of them may be simply wrong. All in all, he does a fine job in defending conditional security.

    I personally do not reference Dan or his book on this site because I think he can be a little extreme in viewing those who hold to eternal security as unsaved (some of what he writes, especially at his site, would at least suggest this).

    Anyway, I don’t necessarily disagree with him on this parable. I think the reviewer, and some of “Corner’s disciples”, have made some assumptions that are not supported by the text. He assumes that no Pharisees were ever saved. It is true that much of the opposition Christ faced came from the Pharisees, and many of those Pharisees were not saved because they did not do the will of the Father, but this text doesn’t seem to be dealing with those Pharisees.

    Notice the conversation between the father and the elder brother at the end of the parable,

    “Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends…And [the father] said to him, “My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15:29-32)

    So in this context the elder brother is pictured as one who is in right relationship with his father. He obeys the father’s commands, enjoys his presence and relationship, and shares in all that the father possesses. That is not a picture of someone who is unsaved.

    Now this guy might try to say that the elder brother was just reporting his view of things, but really didn’t have a right relationship with his father. But that doesn’t work since the father doesn’t challenge his sincerity, service, obedience or his relationship, but rather affirms it. All the father does is point out that his present attitude is out of line, in not rejoicing with the father in the return of his brother. There is nothing in this text to suggest that the elder brother represents an unsaved Pharisee.

    The further comments about how we should all lose our salvation so we can get more is just ridiculous. If someone turns away from God, there is no guarantee that he will return. The point of the parable isn’t getting more (after all, the elder son gets the greater inheritance and the prodigal squandered his in loose living). Rather, it is rejoicing in a restored relationship and the right of the father to receive back the sinner who repents, all of which serves to highlight the wrong attitude of the Pharisees in Luke 15:1.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  46. Ben thanks for the informed answer. Sometimes its easy to overlook the obvious. I still don’t understand why it seems like Arminians are in the minority. It seems like everyone holds to a Calivinist or OSAS viewpoint. What are your views as to when a person loses their salvation. There is that long list of things in Galations which if you practice them you will not be saved. So how long does it take before you lose your salvation. How long can you get angry before you no longer are saved? I’m perplexed by this.

    Thanks
    William

  47. William and Ben,

    Do you hold that Galatians 5:19-21 is about believers? (the works of the flesh) When I compare this passage with Romans 8:1-14 or so, it seems that Paul is speaking of 2 groups:

    Group 1: those who do not have the Spirit of Christ, but walk according to the flesh (v4), have their mind on fleshly things (5), they’re hostile toward God (7, characteristic of believers before Christ–Colossians 1:21)–their end is death (8:6) and not the kingdom of God;

    Group 2–those who have crucified the flesh and walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:24). There’s no condemnation for them (Rom 8:1), their mind is on things of the Spirit (8:5), they belong to Christ and his Spirit dwells in them (8:9) and will certainly be resurrected because of their unity with Christ (8:10; also Rom 6:4-5).

    I don’t believe Romans teaches that there are “carnal Christians,” though I do agree that Christians are capable of sin, even seasons of sin (or backsliding); that’s not what either passage is saying. The true children of God will persevere until the end and will not live in the flesh (Col 1:22-23 teaches that continuing in the faith proves that you’ve been reconciled, not that you will be reconciled because you continue). Those who profess faith but live in the flesh and don’t persevere, at least in my understanding, prove themselves to be hypocrites and not children of God. And Paul says hypocrites won’t inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-11), but the good news is that “such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

    Thanks be to God for his great mercy to a sinner like me! While I struggle with sin daily, I have nowhere else to go but to the Savior for hope. And I know he will keep me from falling away because as Ben has said (and I know it’s not the exact context), that salvation is “a work of God alone. God alone forgives…regenerates…sanctifies….We are not capable of making ourselves holy. All these are monergistic acts of God.” (from “Examining Inconsistencies in Calvinistic Monergism pt 1″). And I’d add that we’re also not capable of persevering in our own strength. How holy do I have to be to finally get in to heaven? How sinless? If I have a certain measure of anger, will the Lord reject me after justifying me and sanctifying me? What if I haven’t conquered lust? I don’t think so–if he truly saved me while I was yet a sinner, he won’t abandon me if I haven’t attained sinless perfection by the end of my life.

    In summary, I believe that Galatians 5:19-21 is sort of an aside when Paul says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident:” He’s not saying here that they could give in to the flesh too much and lose their standing, because right after he says, “those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” It’s a done deal–we’ve crucified the flesh, not attained perfection, though we must still strive toward mortifying the flesh and seeking the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

  48. Ben thanks for the informed answer. Sometimes its easy to overlook the obvious. I still don’t understand why it seems like Arminians are in the minority. It seems like everyone holds to a Calivinist or OSAS viewpoint. What are your views as to when a person loses their salvation. There is that long list of things in Galations which if you practice them you will not be saved. So how long does it take before you lose your salvation. How long can you get angry before you no longer are saved? I’m perplexed by this.

    Not sure if I can give the solid answer you desire here, as the Bible probably doesn’t give a clear cut answer to this question. I think the first thing we need to do is recognize that Christians do struggle with sin. The key would be struggle (as in struggle against). As long as the believer is struggling against sin, though he may fail, he is living by faith. If a believer begins to not take sin seriously by not repenting of it when the Spirit convicts, or ceasing to struggle against it (by essentially giving in), then that person is not really living by faith, and would have good reason to question his salvation.

    Sin leads to a heart that is hardened against God, but only if it is no longer resisted. The soul that continues to resist and battle sin, and call out to God for victory, is living by faith in (and love for) God. The soul that no longer resists and gives up the battle, is no longer living by faith in (and love for) God. Are we satisfied with our sin, or do we despise it and struggle against it? In the realm of continued sinning, I think that is the main difference between faith and unbelief. As we struggle against sin, we will slowly gain the victory, and our lives will be less and less characterized by sin and more and more characterized by holy living. A life of no change at all, likely reflects a life of no faith at all. Paul is giving an example of a life that is characterized by sin and unrepentance, a life that has fully surrendered to sin. Such a person will certainly be excluded from the kingdom of God.

    The point of these warnings is to help believers to always take sin seriously and never become comfortable with sin in their lives. Ignoring the dangers of sin will allow sin to flourish and ultimately lead to a life surrendered to it (rather than God), and that is a life of unbelief, rather than faith. Does that make sense?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  49. Gene,

    Thanks for your thoughts. This is not the place for extensive debate, so I am not going to get into great detail, except to point out where I disagree with you.

    Galatians is definitely directed to believers and 5:19-20 is not just a description of unbelievers, but also a warning towards believers that if they live by the sinful nature, rather than the Spirit, to the point of a life characterized by unrepentant sin, they will not inherit the kingdom of God (cf. verses 16-18, see my comments to William above). The believer has the responsibility to live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh (6:7, cf. Rom. 8:12-14). The fact that this is a warning passage directed towards believers is very obvious since Paul explicitly says,

    “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (v. 21)

    As far as Col. 1:21-23, I think you have read inevitable perseverance into a passage which actually argues against it. The “if” is clearly conditional. If they continue in the faith, they will be presented holy and blameless. To read this as a guarantee of perseverance is to turn the passage on its head.
    For more on this, see my series on perseverance.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  50. ok next question. ^_^

    What do you think is the best Arminian article or best explain our refutation of the Calvinist interpretation of Acts 13:48?

    Thanks,
    rex

  51. rex,

    I might not get to this till tomorrow, but it is a good question, and I think Arminians have more than one good answer.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  52. Rex,

    Some of the debate concerning Acts 13:48 centers on the Greek word Tetagmenoi (tasso- “ordained”, “appointed”) and how it is being used in the passage. There are questions concerning the meaning of the word as well as the Greek voice (middle or passive). For instance, can Tetagmenoi (tasso) mean something like “being disposed” towards eternal life, or “set in line” for eternal life? If so, who or what set them in line, disposed them to life, etc? Did God do it? Did the Gentiles do it? Did the preaching of the gospel or the hearing of the gospel do it? For now, I will leave those questions to the scholars (and I have heard that there will be some scholarly publications forthcoming from the Arminian side on this passage, the meaning of Tetagmenoi, the voice, etc.).

    For now, I am happy to take the word as ordained or appointed. I understand this passage in the same way I understand passages in John 6 and 10 with regards to those who are given to Christ (John 6:37), and those who are considered Christ’s “sheep” (John 10:14-16, 25-39). I will paste in below some comments I have made in other posts concerning the John 6 and 10,

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

    A more plausible interpretation is to understand Jesus’ words in John 10:27-29 in the context of the unique historical situation taking place at the time of His ministry with regards to the transition from the old dispensation to the new. The passage has a secondary application to believers of all ages (as described above) but the primary application concerned only the Jews who were alive during Christ’s ministry and were specifically being addressed in this and other similar chapters in John (John 5:24-27; 6:37, 40-44, 65; 8:12-59).

    The “sheep” in this context are the Jews who are currently living in right covenant relationship with the Father during the time of Jesus’ ministry. The Jews that Jesus is addressing in this discourse and others like it throughout John’s gospel are not in right relationship with the Father during the time of Christ’s ministry. Since they do not know the Father (are not “of God”) they cannot recognize the perfect revelation of the Father in the Son (Jn. 7:16, 17; 8:19, 42-47). They reject the Son and refuse to trust in Him because they have rejected the Father. Therefore, they are not Christ’s sheep and cannot be given to the Son (John 6:37). If they had known the Father they would have recognized the Son as their Messiah and would have been given to Him.”

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

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

    Jesus assures anyone who would come to Christ in faith that they will not be rejected. They will be accepted in the Beloved One of God (6:37). The Father will not fail to give all the faithful Jews to Christ and Christ will not fail to receive them to Himself. Christ will “raise them up at the last day.” These Jews can be sure that their destiny is secure in Christ. However, the promise is only for those who are presently and continually “eating”, “drinking”, “believing”, “coming”, “listening”, “following”, and “beholding.” Only those who persevere in saving faith will be raised up at the last day (6:40). There is no promise here for those who stop believing and no guarantee that those who begin to believe will inevitably endure in that faith. The “all that” in verse 39 is the sum total of believers. It is the corporate body of Christ and that body will certainly be “raised up at the last day” because that body is comprised of those who are presently and continually “believing” in the Son (vs. 40).” Both quotes from: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-12-examining-passages-commonly-appealed-to-by-the-advocates-of-unconditional-eternal-security/

    This view of the John passages gives us insight into the historically unique salvation setting that Luke was describing in Acts 13:48. The Gentiles in Acts 13 were among the “other sheep” that Christ spoke of in John 10:16. In that context these would be Gentile’s who were in right relationship with the Father but had not yet been given to the Son because they had not yet been given the opportunity to believe in the Son (and the Acts passage tells us that these Gentiles were “God fearing Gentiles”, vs. 16). Since they knew the Father they were “ordained to life” and only needed to here the gospel to recognize its truth in Christ. So the order makes sense in that context. “Ordained/appointed to life” because they were already in right relationship with the Father and were His “sheep” and then “believed” upon hearing the gospel and recognizing their shepherd, the perfect revelation of the Father.

    F. Leroy Forlines takes this approach to Acts 13 without any regard to a similar interpretation of John 6, 10, etc. (I am not sure how he would handle those passages) in The Quest For Truth (pp. 388, 389). He writes,

    “The ‘had been appointed to eternal life’ or the ‘appointment to eternal life’ had occurred before they heard and believed the gospel that was presented by Paul and Barnabas. However, the wording does not require [nor suggest] that this appointment to eternal life must be a reference to eternity past. I think what the verse is telling us is that all of those who had been saved prior to their hearing the New Testament gospel [through faith in the Father] subsequently believed when they heard the gospel being presented by Paul and Barnabas. At the moment of their salvation in the past, they were appointed unto eternal life. When they heard about the redemptive work of Jesus the Messiah, they believed and became a New Testament believer. (390)

    I.H. Marshall also suggests this interpretation of Acts 13 in his commentary:

    “It could be taken in the sense that God had predestined certain of them to believe (cf. 16:14; 18:10). But it could also refer to those who had already put their trust in God in accordance with the OT revelation of his grace, and were enrolled as his people…” (pg. 231)

    Forlines goes on to make an important point concerning the Calvinist view of this passage, which serves to underscore the unreasonableness of that interpretation,

    “The verse says, ‘As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.’ If it is a reference to an unconditional appointment in eternity past, it would then mean that of the group present that day ‘as many as’ or ‘all among them’ that would ever be saved were saved on that occasion. I would doubt that those who believe in unconditional election believe that. It is hard to believe that, of that group, from among those who did not get saved on that occasion no one ever got saved later.” (390)

    God Bless,
    Ben

  53. whoa. hehe ok ill read this up. .. iam just concerned since i already read, i think 2 Calvinist writers saying that this verse is what started the journey for them to become a C.

    Ok thanks again.

  54. Hi! I want to ask something about atonement.

    If Jesus made atonement for all sins (He died for all sins) doesn’t that mean that some sins (sins that are not forgiven) are payed for twice once by the death of Jesus and second by the death of the sinner?

    Thank you!

  55. Phileo,

    The short answer is that the atonement is both provisional and conditionally applied. Christ made satisfaction for sins, but only those who come to be in union with Him through faith benefit from that satisfaction. Double payment would only follow if the atonement was unconditionally applied.

    F. Leroy Forlines writes,

    “The Scriptural evidence is clear that it is through union with Christ that the benefits of Christ’s atonement, by which we are justified, are applied to us: ‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 6:11). ‘Through’ in this verse translates the Greek preposition en. It is better to translate it ‘in.’ It is ‘in Christ Jesus’ that we are to consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God. Again Paul says, ‘There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1). The grounds for ‘no condemnation’ is being ‘in Christ Jesus.’ “(The Quest For Truth, 192- emphasis his)

    He continues,

    “Prior to union with Christ on the condition of faith, a person could not say, ‘I died with Christ.’ Immediately, upon union with Christ a person can say, ‘I died with Christ.’ The history of the cross became his history, not in the experiential sense, but by identification so that he received full credit for that death….On the condition of faith, we are placed in union with Christ. Based on that union we receive His death and righteousness. Based on the fact that Christ’s death and righteousness became our death and righteousness, God as judge declares us righteous….atonement is provisionary until the time it is applied. The only way to deny the provisionary nature of the atonement is to consider all people for whom Christ died to be justified before they experience faith. Once it is accepted that atonement is provisionary, the objection, which states that penal satisfaction leads to either universalism or limited atonement, is seen to be invalid. Atonement is provisionary until it is applied. It can be applied only on the condition of faith and on the grounds of union with Christ. When applied, atonement becomes efficacious. Then and only then is atonement efficacious. The objection that the penal satisfaction view requires either universalism or limited atonement fails…The discussion above about provisionary atonement and union with Christ answers the objection [of double payment]. The death of Christ is not on the sinner’s account who goes to Hell. His account does not show a double payment. It is true that his sins were paid for provisionally, but there is no double payment as long as there is no double entry on the person’s account. No person will go to Hell with the death and righteousness of Christ on his account.” (194, 196, 207- emphasis his)

    For more on this, you may want to read the following posts,

    Provisional Atonement Part 1: Dealing With John Owen’s Arminian Dilemma
    Provisional Atonement Part 2: Provision is Consistent With Foreknowledge

  56. hey! I don’t know where to put this, you can delete this afterwards, but the links on the right side of the page is wrong… it should be

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/

    not .NET.

  57. rex,

    That’s weird. I just checked them and they both say .org.

  58. hi,

    I am trying to contact your friends at the “society of evangelical arminians” but i am unable to see the “math question” necessairy to send them my comments and question. i only see “captcha” rather than the image.

    i am sure you must have a direct access to tell them about this problem. can you help with this?

    serge poirier

  59. I’m having the same issue as Serge. Do you know their direct email address, Ben?

  60. Hey guys,

    I passed along your concern to SEA. I will let you know if I hear anything. I don’t know about a direct e-mail. I passed along your question by way of the private google group discussion thread (only for members). My advice, in the meantime, would be to just type in the word (if there is one) and keep trying. I have had similar problems and I am pretty sure that when when I typed in the word and tried a few times, it would eventually go through.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  61. I hope my brief statement and question is clear. I am Arminian, and believe that the New Covenant is a conditional covenant while faith in Christ is the condition. For example, John 3:16: God loved the world and gave his Son while believing is the condition for eternal life. And justification by faith is a major theme in Romans. And everything in Romans about “election” not resulting from works is in the context of justification by faith. Likewise, how to Calvinists teach unconditional election within a conditional covenant?

  62. I used to consider myself a Calvinist but walked away from it once I understood what unconditional election, irresistible grace, and limited atonement really meant. I do believe that we are depraved and need a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit to enable us to respond to the gospel. I also do believe that once God saves you that you are His forever and that He will not let you become unregenerate again. What is the Armenian view on “once saved always saved”?

  63. Joseph,

    Thanks for stopping by. Please ignore the “reply” button and leave any further comments at the bottom of the thread. Thanks.

    As per your question: Just in case it wasn’t a typo, I should point out that it is “Arminian” and not “Armenian” (big difference). There is some debate over the issue of once saved always saved among Arminians. Arminius did not specifically declare himself one way or the other in his writings, though he seemed to lean in the direction of the possibility that true believers could fall away. Likewise, the Remonstrants (his followers) did not immediately declare themselves on the issue in their “Five Articles of Remonstrance”, but rather stated that it was an issue that required more investigation.

    It wasn’t very long, however, before the Remonstrants did take a stand and argue forcefully for the idea that true believers can indeed fall away from the faith and that many do, in fact, fall away (you can find this in the “Opinions of the Remonstrants”). This has come to be the standard Arminian view, but one could call themselves Arminian and hold to once saved always saved since Arminius did not write anything definitive on the issue (he was more concerned with Calvinism making God the author of sin and taking the focus off of Christ in their decretal view of election).

    Personally, I reject once saved always saved on exegetical grounds. If you want to read why I reject it you can check out my 13 part series on the topic:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  64. James,

    Good question. I think the Calvinist answer is basically to insist that the new covenant is unconditional. I have heard some Calvinists argue that the new covenant is superior to the old covenant primarily because the new covenant is unconditional. Where they get that idea in Scripture is beyond me.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  65. Thanks, Ben.

    If indeed all Calvinists appeal to an unconditional New Covenant, then I see that as the central battleground of the debate.

    Blessings,

    Jim

  66. From: An honest inquiring Calvinist.

    Romans 8:30 Says “those whom he justified he also glorified.”

    How do you understand this verse if, infact, you can believe and be Justified, and then not believe and not be Glorified?

    Is this verse teaching that all who are justified will be glorified?

    Thank you kindly for your response

  67. Victor,

    As I said to Joseph above, please respond at the bottom of the thread (go to the end of the comments section and respond in that box), rather than use the “reply” button. I will respond to your question at the bottom of the thread. Again, if you respond further, please just use the box at the end of the comments thread and do not hit the “reply” button.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  68. Victor,

    You wrote:

    From: An honest inquiring Calvinist.

    Romans 8:30 Says “those whom he justified he also glorified.”

    How do you understand this verse if, infact, you can believe and be Justified, and then not believe and not be Glorified?

    Is this verse teaching that all who are justified will be glorified?

    Thank you kindly for your response

    Arminians answer this question in a variety of ways. The main issue is that there is nothing in the verse that says the process is guaranteed from beginning to end. In other words, it speaks from the perspective of those who are already glorified and simply retraces that process, a process that all believers must go through in order to reach their final destiny. However, I think the corporate election view deals with this text even as the Calvinist typically understands it (as a guaranteed process from beginning to end), without the necessary implication of inevitable perseverance.

    Paul is speaking of the corporate elect body of believers (cf. vs. 33). This is clear through Paul’s use of the plural throughout. The church (the elect body of Christ that draws its election and identity as God’s children from Christ) will certainly be glorified. The body of Christ is predestined to ultimate conformity to the image of Christ (i.e. glorification). This is a guarantee. But individual participation in the elect body is conditioned on faith and requires perseverance in faith (cf. 8:25) and love (vs. 28).

    This is brought out plainly in Romans 11:16-24. Here the elect body is pictured as an ancient olive tree. It represents the covenant people of God throughout the ages (those who participate in that covenant through faith). One can only participate in the new covenant and be the people of God at this present time through faith in Christ. Those Jews who rejected Christ have been broken off from the election and those Gentiles who have put faith in Christ have been grafted in to the elect body (the body of Christ). Yet, even those Gentiles who are grafted in to the elect body through faith in Christ may yet be cut off again if they do not continue in that faith (11:22). So the body of Christ is destined for glory, but one comes to be a part of that elect body through faith and remains a part of that body through continued faith, and Paul himself makes it clear that those who are now “standing by faith” (vs. 20) may yet be “cut off” if they do not persevere.

    So Paul is telling the Romans in Rom. 8:30 that the elect body of Christ is destined for glory and that they should find comfort in that during trying times, knowing that they are a part of that body through faith. But Paul is not guaranteeing them that they will inevitably remain a part of that elect body, for that depends on their continued perseverance in faith.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  69. Ben,

    I have several questions but I’ll just ask them in one post because they are related questions. I’m trying to understand what Arminians believe about the natural condition of man and about grace. In my understanding, Arminius believed in prevenient grace and common grace. Prevenient grace is only available to those who hear the Word. Common grace is available to all. Common grace cannot lead to salvation but prevenient grace can (but can be resisted). But then I know that some Arminians (would these be called Wesley-Arminians?) believe that prevenient grace has been given to all so that essentially common grace and prevenient grace are the same thing. Am I right about these things? What are the main differences between Arminians and Wesley-Arminians? Do all Arminians (i.e., Remonstrant Arminians and Wesley Arminians) believe in the bondage of the will? I know this is a handful, but do your best. Also, if you could reference sources (published or not) as you give me answers that would be most helpful.

    Thanks,
    Dan

  70. Hey there

    Are you (or anyone) aware of catechism that has historically been used like the heidelberg but that is more “arminian”?

    Thanks

  71. Dan,

    I don’t really have time right now to give you the documentation that you are asking for but I think I can answer your question fairly well and later provide documentation if you still think it necessary.

    In my understanding, Arminius believed in prevenient grace and common grace. Prevenient grace is only available to those who hear the Word. Common grace is available to all. Common grace cannot lead to salvation but prevenient grace can (but can be resisted).

    What you say about Arminius’ view of prevenient grace I believe is correct though I don’t know as much about his view of common grace or the difference between them.

    But then I know that some Arminians (would these be called Wesley-Arminians?) believe that prevenient grace has been given to all so that essentially common grace and prevenient grace are the same thing.

    Again, I think you are basically correct here. Wesley seemed to plainly teach that everyone was graced with a sufficient restoration to the corrupted will so that all are capable of responding to God’s drawings. Basically, this prevenient grace overrides much of the effects of total depravity so that total depravity really describes a person devoid of this grace which is not really the case with anyone since God gives this grace to all (though those who continually spurn this grace may have it removed so that they would essentially return to a natural state of total depravity devoid of this grace). In other words, in our natural state we are totally depraved, but all of us exist in a “supernatural” type of state due to the universal effects of God’s prevenient and enabling grace. I think that Wesley probably saw part of the function of common grace to be essentially the same as prevenient grace as well.

    What are the main differences between Arminians and Wesley-Arminians?

    Not much beyond the basic differences in how prevenient grace may function in the depraved and the Wesleyan emphasis on entire sanctification (though one could argue that Arminius held to a similar view of sanctification based on some of his writings). Also, some who call themselves “Arminian” still hold to some form of eternal security while Wesleyan Arminians uniformly reject any form of unconditional security.

    Do all Arminians (i.e., Remonstrant Arminians and Wesley Arminians) believe in the bondage of the will?

    Yes, if they are to be properly called Arminians (since Arminius held to such bondage). Otherwise, they should just be called “non-Calvinists” in my opinion.

    update:

    Dan,

    I just caught wind that SEA will soon be publishing a post that deals specifically with the differences between Wesleyan and Classical Arminianism. I will give you a heads up when it is published.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  72. Mike,

    Sorry, can’t really help you with that one but if anyone can help you they are welcome to leave a response.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  73. Ben,

    Thanks for the response to my questions. I did find documentation to the fact that all “true” Arminians believe in the bondage of the will in Roger Olsen, Arminian Theology–he documents this well. (I also sent an email to Roger regarding the same questions I asked you.) Maybe the SEA will provide good documentation on my questions about prevenient grace, as it seems like I’m “generally” right, but I want to make sure I get all the nuances and details correct.

    In terms of not holding to the bondage of the will, I think a better term would be Semi-Pelagian, but only in the respect to man not grace. I recently ran across some fascinating articles about “views of salvation” that stimulated my thinking in this. http://cbounds.blogspot.com/2006/10/four-major-views-of-christian_23.html

    As far as an answer to Mike’s question about a historical confession/document, wouldn’t you say that the Remonstrant articles (though not a catechism) would provide a good understanding of historic Arminianism. Maybe Mike really wanted a catechism.

    When you do let me know about the SEA posting re: differences between Remonstrant Arminians and Wesley Arminians, please have Word-Press notify me via email because I don’t always remember to check your blog.

    Blessings,
    Dan

  74. Dan,

    I will check out the site. I have read the article at SEA and it really doesn’t get into prevenient grace. It deals more with other differences. I really think that it is hard to say exactly how prevenient grace works and for that reason there are diverse opinions on the matter held by many Arminians of various flavors. The agreement is that it enables sinners to respond positively to God. Baiscally, any act of God towards sinners and for the sake of leading sinners on to salvation would be considered prevenient grace by all Arminians.

    As for Mike’s question the Articles of Remonstrants did seem to me to be a little leaner than what he was after. The “Opinions of the Remonstrants” are a little more detailed and might fit the bill as you suggest. They can be read at SEA here:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/784

    God Bless,
    Ben

  75. Mike,

    The closest you will probably find is the “Opinions of the Remonstrants” which can be found at SEA here:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/784

  76. Hey! Just a quick question here. Are there any pastors that you can recommend that I might perhaps be able to listen to? I could read sermons too if your recommendations don’t have any audio. It seems to me that in our day, there aren’t too many sophisticated and logical pastors. R.C Sproul, John Macarthur and John Piper are people that I do listen to but I was hoping for some good arminian pastors to add to the mix.

    Thanks!

  77. burybrutal,

    Here is a good place to start:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/20

    God Bless,
    Ben

  78. I can’t figure out John 6:37 it is proof of to Calvin augmenters but I cant find a good explanation that it is not true.
    Collin.v,

  79. Collin,

    Here are two good articles that I basically agree with:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/282

    http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Gospels/John6_37.html

    Much more could be said, but this is a good place to start. I hope to write some more on the subject in the near future. I think the Calvinist interpretation is very problematic and question begging.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  80. Could you explain from an Arminian perspective what you believe regeneration entails and how, if regeneration is a work of God, it can be ‘un-done’ if/when a believer forsakes the faith.

    Thanks

  81. Greg,

    You wrote,

    Could you explain from an Arminian perspective what you believe regeneration entails and how, if regeneration is a work of God, it can be ‘un-done’ if/when a believer forsakes the faith.

    Theologically speaking, regeneration typically refers to the beginning of spiritual life. It is the new birth, the point at which one comes to be a child of God (John 1:12-13). Biblically, the word “regeneration” is used but once in the sense of personal soteriology (Titus 3:5). In that passage, regeneration is synonymous with salvation.

    Regeneration is certainly a work of God that begins in us the moment we are joined to Christ through faith, at which point His life flows into us and transforms us. As long as one is joined to the source of life (Christ), one will experience all of the spiritual blessings that abide in Him (Eph. 1:3, 13), including new life. If a believer forsakes the faith, he or she will be cut off from Christ and the elect people of God (John 15:5-6; Rom. 11:17-22). As long as one remains in Christ through faith, that person will experience spiritual life. If one fails to remain and abandons the faith, the Father will cut that person off from Christ and he or she will “wither” and die. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  82. Hi, I have been struggling with Salvation concerns, and being ready for the rapture as I know its a small number will be ready. I am/was a fairly mature Christian who stumbled into an old sin. It somewhat compromised my witness and shortly after, an unrelated fluke of a thing happened and my life started to completely fall apart. Lost a good job of 20 years and my home.I then tried to deal with stress and circumstances very much in the flesh and I know God was unhappy with me. I am concerned about verses like Hebrews 6:4-8, and 10:26-39. Luke 12:45-47 and others. I am hoping my salvation is not lost or not being ready for the rapture. Luke 12:45 especially bothers me because this is describes my situation. Very concerned about being a branch cut off-John 15:1 Also in the OT it says a person can be cut off from his people, and I feel pretty much that way now. I am not a blessing to others anymore, but rather a burden. There is no purpose in my life now-
    no chance now to be productive.

  83. So the Arminian believes in total depravity and bondage of the will. Also it was quoted on this website that TULIP is an interlocking logical unit in that if you are a one point Calvinist you are a 5-point Calvinist. Or, if you deny one you deny them all.

    Isn’t there a contradiction then?

    To me it seems it does not matter much the slight difference between prevenient grace of the Arminian and the unconditional saving grace of the Calvinist as long as both hold that God does the first step. The only difference would be this grace is resistible for the Arminian.

  84. Paul, the ‘interlocking unit’ comment was from a commenter. As far as I understand, it’s possible to accept less than all 5 points of TULIP without internal contradiction (e.g. 4-point Calvinists).

  85. Jeff, understand that nobody believes that you are lost and will never be saved. I am personally Calvinistic in my belief about salvation and I cant tell you if you are elect or not. But what I can tell you is to repent and believe the Gospel the good news that Jesus died for you and that you can be justified by faith alone.

    Having said that, you are struggling with a particular sin, the only thing I can tell you is do not despair and believe that you will never find freedom. The devil wants you to buy into the lie that you are lost for good and that God will never look upon you with grace. The Bible clearly teaches the opposite, there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ and there is true liberty from sin in Jesus. Look to the Cross where Jesus made atonement for the sins of all who would believe trust in his work alone and turn from your sin. Its very important that you not isolate yourself from the church you were attending.

    About your rapture concerns. The Bible says we should be eagerly awaiting his coming 2Tim 4:8. This is the heart of every true believer, you want to see the Lord. But you do not feel adequate right now. The only way you will eagerly await his appearing is if your confidence is in the Cross of Christ, and being sanctified by the Spirit.

    I will be praying for you, God bless you.

  86. Jeff, I’ve responded to you by email.

  87. Jeff I just pray for you. The LORD is our strength, and I know the feeling you feel. My advice to you is to thLEAN on Christ. Have you ever heard the little story Footprints? Here’s a nice link to it:

  88. 25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[d]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”

    How come it says, “you don’t believe because you are not my sheep,” instead of, “you are not my sheep because you do not believe?”

  89. Debra,

    Good question. I recommend you read the following article. It is a long read, but well worth the time:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/282

  90. Hi Arminian friends. I am sorry to burden you, but I am afraid one of the peple who used to bea friend to me now believes I am a lost heretic becasue I have told him plainly: “I reject Calvinism.” Now after about a week, I assume he has been quite troubled. He has sent me this list of why Arminainism is irrational and foolish. Could you answer His objections please? Thankyou.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    • An arminian who affirms that someone can lose their salvation is delving into very dangerous waters because this means they believe Jesus is not sufficient to save completely, but that we must somehow maintain our own just standing before God.

    • If man chooses God at any point, he then has merit to boast of the choice he made.

    • If God knows all things, then when he made a man he knew whether or not he would choose him or reject him. Why did he still make him, unless it was unto damnation? The arminian has the same problem as the Calvinist, only the Arminian sacrifices the sovereignty of God at the altar of mans freedom. And so we step back into the garden, which is going to play God?

    • If the trinity submits to the choices of man then God is not omnipotent.

    • If God does not know the choice then he is not omniscient.

    • If God desires all men to be saved in regards to his perfect/secret will and yet not all men come, then God will be unsatisfied for all eternity.

    • If the spirit does not solely provide us repentance, faith and perseverance without the help of man, then faith is by works.

    • To deny that God will finish his “good work that he started” is to make God out a liar. Such a notion is a complete denial of God’s faithfulness and of God’s character.

    • If the Gospel call is universally effectual and a portion of the spirit is given to all men then why do not all men come?

    • If the body of man is the temple of God where the spirit dwells and if every man is given a portion of the spirit, then the spirit will end up in hell with these men.

    • If God cannot interfere with the “will” to make it free, then why do we pray for God to soften hearts?
    • If man can choose to either follow God or reject him, then the arminian is responsible for lost souls on the account of not giving enough convincing evidence.

    • If the arminian is ultimately responsible for the choice of another towards salvation, then it is no more a work of God.

    • No man can ultimately trust on Christ alone for their salvation and so faith becomes “void”.
    • If Christ died for “all” men, then he loses the ones he saved?

    • If God desires all men and is omniscient and yet not all men come, God is irrational.

    • For saving grace to be grace it must be unwarranted.

    • If God cannot force people to do anything and cannot mingle with the freedom of man, if man has a complete “free will”, that is to say that if we hold to libertarian free will; then how can we trust that the bible is the word of God? The prophets could have made the choice to write literally anything because God could not have controlled what they would write.

    • Arminianism presents a love that actually doesn’t save. It is a love that loves and then, if refused, turns to hatred and anger. It is not unchangeable love that endures from everlasting to everlasting. It provides atonement for all, but then withholds the means of grace that would make that salvation effectual in all lives. Are we to believe that Christ died for everyone in the deepest jungle and the darkest city, but his love doesn’t provide the missionaries, preachers, or sermons that would make his death effectual?

    • It slanders God’s wisdom. Why would God make a plan to save everyone, then not carry it out? Would he be so foolish as to have his Son pay for the salvation of all if he knew that Christ would not be able to obtain what he paid for? Some say he didn’t realize the consequences; he saw far enough to provide atonement, but couldn’t see that some wouldn’t take it. Does not that assertion slander the wisdom of God? Could God plan and provide atonement, but not realize that his atonement would not be accepted?

    • It undermines the unity of the Trinity. Just as parents must work together to run a family effectively, so the triune God co-labors in each of his persons with identical purposes and goals. One person cannot possibly have in mind to save some that another person has not determined to save, but Arminian universalism implicitly teaches just that. It denies the Father’s sovereign election, since Christ would have died for more than God decreed to save, thereby making Christ seem to have a different agenda from that of the Father. That would have been anathema to Jesus, who asserted that his entire redemptive ministry was consciously designed to carry out a divinely arranged plan (John 6:38-39).

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As you can see, he doesn’t reall undertsand Arminian theology all that well. Nevertheless, if you would be so gracious, could you send your answers to these objection to brendan_27@hotmail.com ? Thanks.

  91. Hey guys,

    I kind of a Christian. Used to be more fervent but now I’m in loads of doubt.

    My question is related to the question “Why would God create people whom he perfectly foreknew would reject Him and go to hell?” I understand that this question is answered here

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/bossmanham.Is-There-Trauma-in-Sovereignty.A-Response-to-James-Swan-by-Brennon-Hartshorn

    though I have trouble understanding why God can’t know what a hypothetical person might do, even if there is no person to know about.

    I think my question at the moment is ultimately about freewill and our responsibility. With libertarian free will, we are sent to hell for our free choice to reject God. Why then, do some choose God and others reject Him? If they all have the same ability to choose freely, and are all given the grace of a choice to accept Christ, and yet some accept and others reject, what is the cause? If it is external factors (influence from environment, time period, family, etc.) it seems unfair that the only difference between the one in hell and the one in heaven is that one had better environment. If you say, however, that the cause is something in us, rather than external factors, why are we that way in the first place? Did not God create us the way we are?

    I’ll try to put it another way… This is my dilemma. If person A chooses God and person B rejects Him, is it because of their differing environments or because of the way they are? And if it is the way they are, how is God not responsible for creating them that way?

  92. TDC,

    Thanks for stopping by. I don’t have time to go back and forth with you, and this is not really the place for that, but I will try to give you some answers that I hope you will find satisfying. You wrote,

    …though I have trouble understanding why God can’t know what a hypothetical person might do, even if there is no person to know about

    Because there is no person to know anything about, just as you said. That seems plainly absurd to me. How can God know what a person (and remember there is no “person”, nor will there ever be) would freely do in a situation when the “person” will never exist to make the free choice or be in that situation? If God could know such a thing it would only be possible within the framework of determinism where God could know what such a person would choose simply because God would know what He would cause the person to choose. But the Arminian is operating from the perspective of freedom, and not determinism. For that reason, the objection, based on the presupposition of determinism, cannot succeed. It is simply question begging.

    Also, if God did foreknow what a person would freely choose and then not create that person based on that knowledge, God would falsify His own foreknowledge by not creating that person. God would essentially make Himself wrong by making something He foreknew happening as not happening, or making a person He foreknew as existing, never to exist. Since God cannot be wrong, He cannot not create someone based on what He knows this “person” (who will actually never exist) would do or choose. Do you see the problem?

    I think my question at the moment is ultimately about freewill and our responsibility. With libertarian free will, we are sent to hell for our free choice to reject God. Why then, do some choose God and others reject Him?

    For a multitude of reasons. No one is denying that we make choices for reasons or in accordance with motives. Arminians only deny that such things irresistibly cause our decisions. When we choose in accordance with a motive, or for a reason, we do so freely, rather than by necessity. The free agent weighs the motives and chooses accordingly. Motives do not irresistibly dictate choices.

    If they all have the same ability to choose freely, and are all given the grace of a choice to accept Christ, and yet some accept and others reject, what is the cause?

    The cause is the God given power and capacity to make a free choice (or, as you say, “the ability to choose freely”). The cause is the agent himself and the agent’s will is a full and adequate cause in itself, needing nothing more to make (or cause) a choice, in accordance with whatever reasons or motives it deems important.

    If it is external factors (influence from environment, time period, family, etc.) it seems unfair that the only difference between the one in hell and the one in heaven is that one had better environment.

    Influences are factors, but they are not irresistible factors. That is all the Arminian is saying.

    If you say, however, that the cause is something in us, rather than external factors, why are we that way in the first place?

    Yes, it is the God given alternative power of the will that is in us. We are that way because God created us with the power to make free unnecessitated choices. It was His good pleasure and sovereign right to do so.

    Did not God create us the way we are?

    Absolutely. He created us as free moral agents.

    I’ll try to put it another way… This is my dilemma. If person A chooses God and person B rejects Him, is it because of their differing environments or because of the way they are?

    Ultimately, neither. Those things factor in to our choices, but they do not irresistibly cause us to choose a certain way. The reason for the choice is ultimately the agent himself who freely decides what he or she will do and why he or she will do it, in accordance with the God given power of free will. You would probably do well to read this series by J.C.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  93. Two comments, or questions. First, I was thinking about the analogy that I have heard Calvinists use about free choice. I have heard a comparison being made like, “What if you wanted to be 8 ft. tall?” You are 5 ft. tall, no choice there. Then that is likened to the choice to choose God. What occurred to me is that I have never seen anything in Scripture that shows God holding me accountable for being 8 ft. tall. In fact, every analogy used for this, can be shown to show that God does not hold us accountable for things that are not in our control at all. Also, I was thinking of the passage of Scripture where Jesus says that all men have been given a measure of faith. Is this not the grace that allows us to be able to choose to respond to God’s love?

  94. Pam,

    Thanks for stopping by. I don’t have a lot of time, but wanted to quickly address your question. I think this post will answer your question about God holding us accountable for our choices and the nature of choices in general:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Henshaw-Determinism-Free-Will-The-Reality-of-Choice-and-the-Testimony-of-Scripture

    As for the measure of faith, I believe that is Paul who said that and not Jesus (I do not have a reference handy). That passage is more in the context of believers and does not seem to be addressing God giving all men the ability to believe the gospel. However, there are plenty of passages that do speak to God giving all people such an ability when confronted with the gospel as well as a general grace that leads all people to the point where they can make that choice.

    May God bless you as you continue to seek Him.

    Ben

  95. […] would post the short correspondence on the main page.  You can read the original question in full here (which might provide some helpful context concerning the first question).  The inquirer’s […]

  96. Thanks Ben! That was really helpful. I was thinking as well, that being able to imagine something, is in itself a choice of sorts. In the case of accepting God’s grace, one needs to be able to perceive His offer. That person doesn’t need to be good, but he only needs to be able to understand God’s offer. He needs to understand what God says about him, and his sin. Since the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, wouldn’t this mean that a convicted person would understand? Back to the choice to be 8 ft tall. If I can imagine or perceive being 8 ft tall, I don’t have to have the ability to grow myself there, if this is an offer God has made. If He said you can be 8 ft tall if you trust me to grow you that tall, then it comes back to faith. I hope that made sense.

  97. Hello Ben,

    My name is Drew. I’ve been an Arminian for a while but as of late I’ve had a deep fear in the pit of my stomach from time to time that Calvinism might be true. My fear is that God only gives some the GIFT of belief and withholds it from others. I’ve been pondering this due to fact that so many people can look at the same evidence (in a variety of different fields) and come to RADICALLY different conclusions. This becomes even harder to deal with when the opposing party has very reasonable answers to counter ones arguments. This troubles me deeply when I actually think about it. Why? In the words of Rachel Evans commenting on her post “Why Calvinism Makes Me Cry”,

    “It’s a post about how our loudest protests and most passionate tirades tend to reflect our insecurities rather than our convictions.”

    If I’m honest, I would hate to think that God creates disposable people. How could God be like that? That seems utterly cruel and vindictive to me.

    But sometimes I wonder if that is true even if I would hate that and eventually find God unworthy of worship. Calvinism doesn’t “feel” right to me in my heart, but I can’t stop wondering about why people have such radically different views. I understand that there are other factors that play an important role in how we come to believe things.

    This particularly hits home for me when I stop and think about the stories I’ve read about people de-converting and walking away from the faith. My cousin might be one of them. He is leaning toward an open agnosticism right now and has told me on numerous occasions that he would love to come back to faith in God if he was so persuaded. He is open. This is heart renching for me. My fear is that “persuasion” is solely God’s doing. My cousin is brilliant and looks at the same evidence I do, yet he comes to some radically different views to the point that if he comes back to God, his faith will look little to nothing like he grew up believing.

    All this to ask: How do you understand the radical diversity of beliefs from some well intentioned/thoughtful/generally good people who want to believe but can’t bring themselves to commit to belief? Why do some long to believe but seem always just out of reach?

    Thanks.

  98. Drew,

    I have very little time, so I can’t give your question the attention it deserves right now. Still, I wanted to briefly address your questions.

    I think that the fact that people come to different opinions regarding Scripture and interpretation lends strong support to Arminianism. If it is true that God has given us a measure of free will and has made it possible for us to resist His drawing and leading in a variety of areas, then it makes a lot of sense why people disagree. While the Spirit is leading all Christians into His truth, it is possible for the believer to resist that leading. Why do people resist that leading? For a variety of reasons. Why do some people desire to believe but ultimately resist? For a variety of reasons. Many want to believe, but want to believe on their own terms and not on God’s terms, so they are conflicted and may never come to faith unless they decide to believe on God’s terms. This doesn’t mean that God is not working in such people to bring them to repentance and total surrender to God. What it means is that God’s work is resistible, just as Arminianism (and the I am convinced, the Bible) teaches.

    But imagine if Calvinism was true. How then would we explain such things? God would have decreed everything that everyone will ever think or decide. This is very hard to make sense of in the context of believer’s coming to different interpretations on Scripture. It would be a case of God causing all that confusion by way or an irresistible eternal decree. Why does the Calvinist disagree with the Arminian? Because God decreed it. Why does the unbeliever who “desires” to believe ultimately continue in unbelief? Because God decreed it and ultimately desires to leave that person without hope (since His decree trumps any “desire” God may have for their salvation). Why are you so confused about these things? Because God decreed it, even though the Bible says that God is not the author of confusion.

    Much more could be said, but hopefully this will help you see why it seems that Arminian theology makes far better sense of what we read in Scripture and experience in our daily life than Calvinism does.

    For those who are resisting but seem to have some desire for faith, I recommend that you pray hard for them. God is personal and desires for us to be a part of the process of bringing people to Him. Your prayers could eventually make the difference. This doesn’t mean that God will irresistibly bring someone to faith because you pray, but it does mean that He will continue to work in that person powerfully to bring that person to faith. It was God’s sovereign desire for people to put faith in Him freely just as it was my desire for my wife to willing accept me as her husband. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t actively persuading her with my love and pursuit. I truly desired to have a permanent intimate relationship with her. But more than that, I desired for that relationship to be based on her willingly desiring the same. I think it is the same with God, and for that reason He does not work irresistibly to bring us to faith, nor does He cause us to love Him.

    Also, I do fear that many walk away from the faith because they have become convinced of Calvinism. Eventually, the logical implications may drive some people away from God. Also, the obvious contradictions inherent in Calvinist theology may lead people to abandon Christianity (since they have come to equivocate Calvinism with true Christianity), because they come to find and admit that Calvinism is incoherent, giving them good reason to walk away. Thankfully, many Calvinists find ways to ignore these problems and remain faithful.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  99. For Brother Drew,

    Greetings, brother. You comment and Ben’s response came through on my email feed of things going on in the Arminian internet world, and I’d like to give you some help. You know, I was pondering just yesterday a typical Calvinist challenge to the Arminian idea of libertarian free will which goes a bit like this:

    Say persons “A,” “B” and “C” go along to a Church service, and they all hear an evangelical sermon from a pastor on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After that sermon we find that:

    1) Person “A” commits his life to Jesus Christ there and then.
    2) Person “B” does not commit his life there and then, but then does a few years down the track.
    3) Person “C” does not commit his life to Christ at all, and continues the same way until his death.

    The challenge is thus: “Now why did three people who heard the exact same message from the exact same person come to very differeny conclusions and/or have completely different reactions?”

    But I would like to show you the circular fallacy in the assumptions behind this challenge:

    1) Are we really to say that these three people are EXACTLY the same with the exact same life experiences and ways of thinking? It’s too presumptious and theoretical to be a serious representation of actual human life and experience. But even if we assume so for the sake of argumentation;
    2) The argument is circular, because what the Calvinist puts forth with one hand, they draw away with the other. The start off by assuming “these three are the same to begin,” but end up by saying, “so they qere not were not the same in the first place!” But if this is so, then it is inexplicable why they came to different conclusions!

    The Calvinst must say that person “A” was effectually and irresistibly caled and drawn by the Holy Spirit, person “B” was non-effectually called then but was later (for whatever reason) and person “C” was in fact reprobate–his going to that Church could not have done anything one way or the other; he will now face torment for God’s pleasure.

    The Arminian however would simply say that person “A” responded by free-willingly placing his faith* in Christ, person “B” struggled with the world and the Spirit and after a while overcame the flesh by placing his faith in Jesus, but person “C” who was also called and drawn by God ultimately and free-willingly resisted the Holy Spirit and now faces severe and just judgement.

    * Now the problem the Calvinist will have with the Arminian idea here is that the human action of “placing of faith” in Jesus. Theyassert that this is synonomous with a meritrorious work. Doubtless you have been challenged with the scripture of Ephesians 2:8-9, which says,

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

    Now, the common assertion here from a superficial reading will say that it is “FAITH” to which the “gift of God” refers to, which would lead to you fear that “God only gives some the GIFT of belief and withholds it from others.”
    However, as the Arminian writier, Robert E. Picirilli notes excellently in his book “Grace, Faith, Free Will,” gramatically this CANNOT work. I am not excellent in Greek, but Picirilli is, and he notes very well that the word “pistis” which means “faith” (used in Eph 2:8) is a FEMININE article, yet the conjunction in the passage (“and this”) is a NEUTER particle. Therefore, THE NEUTER CONJUNCTION “AND THIS’ CANNOT REFER BACK TO THE FEMININE OBJECT “FAITH”– IT MUST ACTUALLY GRAMATICALLY REFERS BACK TO BEING “SAVED.”

    Let me use an illustration of the importanceof this. I’ve studied German for about six years now, and the role word-gender grammar plays in sentence structure is very important as it gives you alot of information about wo is talking about what .
    If I am using a sentence conjunction (a linking word) such as “which,” “when,” “and,” “but” (etc), THE GENDER OF THAT CONJUNCTION I AM USING MUST CORRECTLY CORRESPOND TO TE GENDER OF THE THE OBJECT I AM REFERRING TO IN THE PREVIOUS CLAUSE.

    For exmaple, in German, the word used for “the Bible” is “die Bibel.” Now, “die” is the feminine word for “the” and so we call “the Bible” a “feminine noun.”
    Now, if I want to say a phrase such as, “The Bible that I am reading looks good,” then the word “that,” which refers back to “The Bible,” must also be feminine.

    We have a selection of three genders in German, the word “the” which can be either “der”, “die” or “das”:

    “der” for masculine.
    “die” for feminine.
    “das” for neuter.

    OK so if “die Bibel” is a “feminine noun,” which one of the three above conjunctions should I use? Well the feminine one of course!

    “Die Bibel, {die}* ich lese, sieht gut aus.” =

    “The Bible that I am reading looks good.”

    It would be incorrect in German if the *{conjunction} I used was “der” or “das,” becasue they would be the wrong gender.

    The same goes for ancient Greek, however, this is exactly the error Calvinists make with Ephesians 2:8-9. They assume that the “and this” refers back to the “faith”! This cannot be.
    We find that the neuter “and this” according to Greek grammar refers back to the noun “saved”–not to “faith.”

    So Eph 2:8-9 is actually saying that:

    1) Salvation is not of yourselves — sola deo gloria
    2) Salvation is the gift of God — solus christus
    3) Salvation is not of works — sola gratia, sola fide

    Makes perfect sense, right? We are saved THROUGH faith and this placing of faith is the free-will decision of the creature (John 6:29). But let’s consider for the sake of argument, what has now been shown to be the linguistically impossible, the Calvinist assertion that the “and this” refers back to “faith” in Eph 2:8-9. We actually end up with a bigger problem anyway, for it would say:

    1) Faith is not of yourselves — logically possible in the reading.
    2) Faith is the gift of God — what is most commonly cited as argumentation, possible.
    3) Faith is not of works — this phrase would become tautology; a meaningless repetition. Of course “faith” would not be “of works” … that’s why it is called “faith”!!

    After making this point, the Calvinist assertion may be that, “If the human being can free-willingly place faith in Christ, then this is a meritorious work.” But hold on, this is not biblically grounded. It is going “beyond what is written”(1 Corinthians 4:6). Faith is always CONTRASTED with works in the Bible. See for example the entire book of Galatians!

    Why did persons “A” and “B” above place their faith in Christ and person “C” not do so? The simple answer is that they free-willingly chose to (or not to). “This is arbitrary” the Calvinist might then say. We reply, “No. God created ex nihilio (from nothing)–is this arbitrary?” Certainly not. God has free-will, and He makes choices (even sovereign choices according to Calvinists) which are ex nihilio–forced or compelled from nothing other than His will alone.

    Were not human beings in the beginning created in the “amargodae” — the image of God? Were not human beings given the gift of self-determination in the Garden, just as God had within His own being? Did not human beings choose to disobey? Is not every human heart desperately wicked and yet the Spirit of God convicts the heart of each one today calling all men everywhere into repentance and loving, lasting relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30b)?
    If so, then it is inexplicable as to why the human being should not be able to make a free will decision for (or rejection of) Christ ex nihilio!

    This is where I believe the supernatural, mysterious, spiritual aspect of the created order comes into play. To deny this possibility, the Calvinst must assert that the human will and the image of God itself is completely marred as if to not exist before sovereign, irresistible regeneration.
    Yet the biblical Arminian affirms in all confidence the totally depraved sinner’s illumination to the Gospel by the conviction of the Holy Spirit of Christ in the soul of the sinner, making them able to believe and repsond to the free grace that is offered. That is what prevenient grace is all about. It is te primary work of God in the heart to draw us lovingly to Himself.

    But ten the accusaton might be: “You restrict God’s sovereignty.” No! God is still absolutely sovereign in this sense: He has decided that it is through faith in Jesus Christ alone that we shall be reunited to Him in relationship and cleansed from sin by His blood only to be forgiven.
    God has also sovereignly decided to reveal this absolute truth through His inspired word, the Bible, alone, not in the religious tradtions of men.

    The ultimate expression of the Sovereignty of God is not found in doctrines of the TULIP, but in the very conditons of salvation itself, and in the delcaration of judgement upon those wicked men and women who refuse to meet thee conditions God has placed down.

    Why does one accept and the other reject? He makes a mystical ex nihilio decision for his Creator at the loving call of Almighty God. Is it an issue of sovereignty or of divine ability on God’s part? No. It is a matter of love and of relationship between a loving Heavenly Father and His prodigal sons and daughters.

    Therefore, brother Drew, we can have confidence that at long as our friends and family draw breath, they CAN be saved. The offer is REAL. God really DOES love them, and He HAS expressed it on the cross. You can tell them that.
    In case of your cousin, I know how you feel and so does the Apostle Paul (see Romans 10). Your godly concern shows the heart of Jesus (Matthew 23:37).

    As some general advice to you in this regard, why don’t you introduce your cousin to some good, evangelical Christianspeakers and philosophers? I recommend Ravi Zacharias, a world-known Christian philosopher who has spoken in over fifty countries worldwide. He has some excellent books such as “Beyond Opinion” and “Jesus Among Other Gods.” You can also look him up on youtube as well, and also hear his radio broadcast “Let My People Think” at http://www.rzim.org (go to the “Resources” tab).

    I also recommend Dr William Lane Craig, Christian philosopher of science, arguably one of the best speakers today. He has books such as “Reasonable Faith” and also for yourself the book “On Guard,” which is an apologetical training manual! Please look up his website http://www.reasonablefaith.org for some of his work. He has some fabulous debates with people like Christopher Hitchens and Dr Peter Sleazack.

    Introduce your cousin to Christian thinkers and literature to show him/her that Christianity isn’t a faith for air-heads but is a logical, thinking and reasonable faith which can be evaluated and found firm under the evidence.
    Lee Strobel found out this very thing after two years of vigorous research into biblical credibility as an Atheistic journalist for the Chicago Tribune. He is now one of the most renowned evangelican Christian apologetical speakers today. An excellent book by him is “The Case For Christ.” Look up some of his works too.

    Also, don’t ignore the existential aspect of your cousin. You may not know fully whether or not one’s waning faith is due to an intellectual problem or an emotional one. You must not be dismissive of existential problems, as some people are. A typical existential problem would be “If God is all-powerful and all-loving, then why is there so much evil in the world?” This not a logical “brain-question” in the usual sense; it is a question from the heart. Learning apologetics from people such as those mentioned above will help you to address such issues.

    Most of all though, pray. You can have all this logical, apologetical knowledge, but what does that mean if you’re not trusting in God? Perhaps invite your cousin to read one of the Gospels for him-/herself. I recommend John. You could perhaps say, “Hey have you ever read the story of Jesus for yourself in your own time?” See what he/she says.

    Another cool trick you might like to try is this: Leave every now and then little Bible verses in, say, his/her schoolbag or room or wherever–somewhere you know they will find them–e.g., you might leave a little John 3:16 note with the scripture on it that he or she can read.

    Be patient and kind, for God will be calling them through your small works of kindness and endurance. I’ve seen it work in my own life, and a person with whom you are patient and who you allow good time to think and figure it out for themselves make decisions to become disciples, not just decisions.

    It will take time, but wait on the LORD. Be like the Prophet Jeremiah, to whom God said, “I am with you and will rescue you,” (Jeremiah 1:19).

    God bless you and you discover God’s truth and His ways all the more. 🙂

    Brendan.

  100. Hey Brendan,

    Thanks for your reply. I appreciate you taking the time to write out such a thoughtful response. Concerning the sources you mentioned above, my cousin used to have and read many of their works. At one time, ( for him it was about 7 or 8 years ago, he’s 30) found their arguments convincing. He does no longer ( at least when it comes to traditional understandings of theodicy, Scripture etc..) I too am familiar with Ravi, Craig, and Strobel and used to appeal to a lot of their work. I still do find some of their material stimulating and helpful, but not as much as I used to when I first started studying apologetics. That was about 8 years ago (I’m 28).

    I guess the heart-renching aspect is that my cousin was once a strong believer, but has struggled with many intellectual problems with Christian theism. I can sympathize with him to a certain extent. I look back on some of the books and people I listened to and sometimes now ask myself “how did i ever find some of their arguments and reasons convincing” in the light of recent arguments that I sometimes find more convincing. Sometimes its the KINDS of questions that are asked of traditional belief that makes me have to rethink some things.

    My cousin was a biblical studies major (trained in both Hebrew and Greek) and now has a Masters in Biblical Studies from Emory University. He is an open agnostic now. I too took Hebrew and Greek and am working on my Masters at an Evangelical Seminary, yet I still believe. We all have to be honest with ourselves to the best of our ability. I just wonder why my cousin feels self-honestly leads him his position. He genuinely believes he is being honest with himself, no matter what the consequences. Are we only interested in the pursuit of truth if it leads to or reinforces what we already believe? That is an important question and one I know my cousin has taken very seriously. I guess what I’m saying is that I am troubled by the fact that my cousin knows as much and even more about Scripture, hermeneutics, etc… and once believed strongly and now does not. It’s hard for me to see a discernable difference in how he lives as opposed to most Christians I know, so I tend to chalk up his struggles as mostly intellectual. Granted, I do not know his heart, but outside appearances do not seem to be much different. Anyway…thanks for caring and responding.

  101. If God has from eternity know who would go to hell and ho would be saved, yet he still created the men who he knew would go to hell, did not God seal their fate by His own foreknowledge of their damnation? God made them knowing they would perish in eternal hell fires.

  102. Ben,

    @did not God seal their fate by His own foreknowledge of their damnation?

    God’s foreknowledge itself isn’t causative. His creating a person is causative of the person’s capability to reject Him, but the fact of that rejection is rooted in the person’s own will, not God.

  103. Hi there, I just have a couple of questions regarding the Calvinistic doctrine of Unconditional Election.

    I think that I may have refuted this doctrine by using the ‘denying the consequent’ [if p, then q. Not q. Therefore, not p.] form of argument. My reasoning was as follows:

    ________________________________________

    CALVINISTIC DOCTRINES OF ELECTION & REPROBATION REFUTED

    Calvinistic Doctrine of Reprobation Defined:

    The Calvinistic Doctrine of Reprobation is the flipside to the Calvinistic Doctrine of Election. The Doctrine of Election concerns those who are predestined to salvation; the Doctrine of Reprobation concerns those who are predestined to Hell.

    Boettner explains,

    “The doctrine of absolute Predestination of course logically holds that some are foreordained to death as truly as others are foreordained to life. The very terms “elect” and “election” imply the terms “non-elect” and “reprobation.” When some are chosen out others are left not chosen. The high privileges and glorious destiny of the former are not shared with the latter…Those who hold the doctrine of Election but deny that of Reprobation can lay but little claim to consistency. To affirm the former while denying the latter makes the decree of predestination an illogical and lop-sided decree. The creed which states the former but denies the latter will resemble a wounded eagle attempting to fly with but one wing. ” [Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p.104-5.]

    Calvin says,

    “There could be no election without its opposite reprobation.” [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.23.1]

    The Westminster Confession says,

    “The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praised [sic] of His glorious justice.” [WCF, Ch.3 Sec.7]

    Calvin goes on,

    “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which He determined with Himself whatever He wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death.” [Calvin, Institutes, 3.21.5]

    So the Calvinistic Doctrine of Reprobation can be defined as:

    The doctrine that teaches that God, for His own good pleasure, predestined some individuals to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.

    In determining the truth of this doctrine, it first needs to be established whether God can or cannot lie:

    1) God Cannot Lie:

    Premise #1: By nature, God is a God of truth (Deut. 32:4).
    Premise #2: By nature, God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).
    Premise #3: Lying is contrary to truth.

    Conclusion: God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18).

    Now that it has been established that God cannot lie, it can be established that God cannot predestine anyone to Hell for His own good pleasure:

    2) Calvinistic Doctrine of Reprobation Refuted:

    Premise #1: By nature, God has no pleasure in the death of people, even the wicked (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11). (Remember: God cannot lie – therefore, when He says that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He means it!)
    Premise #2: For God to unconditionally predestine some people to Hell for His own good pleasure requires God to take pleasure in the death of people.
    Premise #3: For God to take pleasure in the death of anyone, He would have to act contrary to His own nature.
    Premise #4: God cannot act contrary to His own nature (Num. 23:19; 2 Tim. 2:13).

    Conclusion: God cannot unconditionally predestine anyone to Hell for His own good pleasure.

    3) Calvinistic Doctrine of Election Refuted:

    Now that it has been proven that God cannot unconditionally predestine anyone to Hell for His own good pleasure, it can also be proved that God cannot unconditionally predestine anyone to Heaven by using the argument called ‘denying the consequent’.

    Denying the consequent is this: “If p, then q. Not q. Therefore, not p.”

    Translating this into Calvinistic terms, then:

    Premise #1: If the Calvinistic doctrine of election is true, then the Calvinistic doctrine of reprobation is true.

    Premise #2: The Calvinistic doctrine of reprobation is not true.

    Conclusion: The Calvinistic doctrine of election is not true.

    ________________________________________

    My first question is: am I misrepresenting Calvinism in any way, shape, or form? [The last thing I want to be doing is wrestling with straw men.]

    And my second question is: is my reasoning sound? Or in other words, have I made any errors in reasoning? [The reason I’m asking is because I’ve never heard anyone use a similar sort of argument against Unconditional Election, which makes me worry whether I’ve actually come up with a valid argument or not.]

    Any help you could give would be much appreciated. 🙂

    BTW, thanks for the great site!

    Blessings,

    Matthew

    P.S. Where did the name ‘Kangaroodort’ come from?

  104. Matthew,

    I do not have time to review this argument right now, though I promise to get to it eventually. Maybe JC would like to comment on it as well.

    The name comes from my basic feeling that the Synod of Dort (where Arminianism was condemned as heretical by a bunch of Calvinists) was much like a kangaroo court (hence- kangaroodort), and really irrelevant to the question of which view should be considered orthodox (since many Calvinists point to the synod of Dort as some sort of evidence that Arminianism is unorthodox).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  105. No worries 🙂

    I look forward to hearing what you or JCT have to say.

    Thanks for the reply.

    Matthew

  106. Hello Ben,
    I am in the process of putting together a Biblical/Arminian catechism for my children and our local church. Are you aware of anything like this which has succinct statements/definitions regarding the true doctrines of grace? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. May God continue to bless your labors.
    Because of Jesus,
    Charlie

  107. Charlie,

    I don’t know of anything comprehensive. If you want to get to the origin you could go with the Opinions of the Remonstrants, or something like that. There are Arminian books listed at my site as well as many more resources at the SEA site that might help. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  108. Greetings! Thank you for this outlet in which we may ask questions.

    I have been studying the Arminian / Calvinist / Open Theism debate for years now and clearly lean toward the Arminian perspective. I currently am studying the idea behind freewill, specifically pertaining to children and/or those who, because of mental impairments, would not be considered accountable.

    While, I understand that we all have a sin nature, I don’t believe that we are held accountable for Adam’s sin but our own; therefore, I certainly don’t think such individuals are in Hell. I understand the Calvinist argument to be that those who are “elect” are in Heaven, while those not elect are in Hell. I’ve seen two main arguments on the other side of the spectrum: (a.) God knows how the individual would have decided and thus judges accordingly -or- (b.) all individuals unable to make a choice are in Heaven .

    With (a.), such is a bit of a play in a realm beyond my comprehension. I understand that God not only knows what our ultimate choices would be, but also all of the possible choices. I also have no problem understanding that just because God foreknows the future, He doesn’t necessarily CAUSE the future. Is this where this theory comes into play–that God knows how an individual would have decided? Such to me is a bit “out there” as such a future does not exist and since God is omniscient, He clearly knows it didn’t exist. This idea also brings into question other theological ideas…Since God knows how one would have decided about any little thing, why not just wrap up “life” right now and get on with eternity? Why allow sin to enter our nature through Adam in the first place? For instance, why does God unleash Satan at the end of the Millennium? Most of what I’ve read says it is to allow those who are living in a practical paradise under God’s rule to be tempted by Satan and fall away (or those eternally secure folk would say that they never really believed, but just went along with a “good thing” under God’s rule). If God knows these individuals’ true hearts, why go through the trouble of releasing Satan?

    With (b.), it seems that God is denying the freewill choice to individuals. Indeed, such a theory would make it almost “kind” (God forbid) to kill children before they reach an “age of accountability.” As Scripture states at times, it’d be better if one had died in the womb than to face the possibility of Hell. (I think that perhaps this was part of Andrea Yates feelings as she drowned her own children.) I have to admit to help myself deal with the horrors of abortion, I think, “Well, at least the baby is in Heaven,” whereas if the child had had the chance to grow-up, he or she may have not decided for Christ.

    A couple of other minor possibilities that I’ve heard: Those not given a choice will actually be given a chance to decide during the Millennium or at the Judgment Seat or someplace else. -or- In a similar way to how John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, God provides a sub-conscience way to individuals who we don’t think can make a choice. Neither of these points are as plausible as the others listed above in my mind.

    My question:
    Possibility (b.) seems most biblical to me. If accurate in your understanding, since God does not want “robots” in Heaven and provides us with freewill, why would He deny this choice to stillborn children, young children who die before they understand such a choice, or to those mentally impaired individuals who cannot make such a choice?

    Thank you for your time.

  109. Lori,

    I have very little time at the computer these days. I will give you a short take and if there is something more you need, let me know and I will try to get to it when I get the chance.

    The nature of your questions is mostly speculative. The Bible just does not address much of what you want to know. I do think the Bible plainly teaches that we are free moral beings that God holds accountable for our choices. I also believe that the Bible makes it clear that God only holds those accountable for their actions that can properly be called to account, in accordance with His wisdom and justice, etc. So I agree with you that God does not hold small children or certain mentally challenged individuals accountable. Still, life is precious and man never has the right to end another life. Therefore, regardless of what we may think, God knows what He is doing and it is only up to Him to decide what is best for one of His creatures (with regards to whether they should continue living or not).

    I think we need to leave such things to God’s wisdom and discretion. We are not in a place to make those decisions for God.

    I also agree with you that God does not hold us morally accountable for Adam’s sin, though I do think that the corruption that results from that sin (and other factors) will eventually cause us to sin. This is why we need Christ and this is why God ultimately judges His creatures based on their response to His grace, which unless continually resisted, will lead the person to the remedy (Christ). This is why we are ultimately judged for rejecting Christ. We will also be judged for all of our sins that could have been forgiven, had we not resisted God’s grace to our own self-destruction.
    I hope that helps. I don’t think it necessary to delve into middle knowledge and such things (what someone might have done or chosen had they continued to exist, etc.), though such things can be very interesting. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  110. Howdy, I’m open to correction, but I believe that there is good Biblical precedent to support the idea that God will not hold infants or mentally impaired people accountable. I believe the Bible does mention [albeit vaguely] an ‘age of accountability’, or as I prefer to call it, a period of innocence.

    If the child dies while in the state of innocence, then solely by the grace of God, that child is saved. Deuteronomy 1:39 talks of God not punishing ‘little ones’ who have no knowledge of good and evil. Jonah 4:11 displays God’s kindness as He pities those ‘who cannot discern between their right hand and their left’. In Isaiah chapter 7 verse 16, there is an indication that there is a period of innocence in a child’s life. These verses seem to indicate that when a person does not have the mental or moral capacity to actually make a choice, God will be gracious and save that person.

    It must be remembered that these children will not be saved because they have some right to salvation – no one has such a right. The child/mentally impaired person is saved solely because the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. God is a gracious God, and He will save those who die before they have the mental and moral capacity to make a choice.

    The condition for salvation is repentance/faith (Luke 13:3, 5; John 3:16; Rom. 10:9, etc.); an infant cannot meet that condition; therefore, when an infant dies, God will save him – not because He is under obligation, but because of who He is.

    Where little is given, little will be required.

    God bless,
    Matthew 🙂

  111. Here is my question. This has to do more with free will and whether God controls everything. I want to say for the record, I don’t believe he does. I think there are things on earth that God doesn’t like and doesn’t want them to happen. My arguement is with a hyper-calvinist. This was his question to me…

    What about King Saul? I Samuel 16:14 “Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord began to torment him, so Saul’s servants said to him, “You see that an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.” God does not cause evil but he does allow it to occur. To say that God is not in charge of certain areas means they are outside of his control.

  112. There’s a difference between God being in control of everything and God exercising meticulous control over everything.

    If God in His sovereignty decides to do nothing, that decision is itself an exercise of His sovereign control.

    “To say that God is not in charge of certain areas means they are outside of his control.”

    This is a false dilemma. As far as I know, no Arminian claims that God is not in charge of certain areas. The issue between Arminians and Calvinists is not whether God is sovereign in everything or not, but rather, the issue revolves around the question of how God exercises His sovereignty. To the Calvinist, God exercises meticulous control; He causes all things. To the Arminian, God can, and occasionally does, exercise meticulous control, but the way He normally deals with men is by allowing them to make their own decisions, which are free from necessity.

  113. Do some Christians believe God first regenerates you and then you are still able to reject or accept Christ?
    Or does regeneration mean you will automatically accept Christ? I am confused.

  114. Paulette,

    While Calvinists believe that regeneration precedes faith, I don’t know of any that would say that one so regenerated could then reject the gospel. They believe that regeneration causes faith in Christ. Not only is this unbiblical in my opinion but leads one to wonder why regeneration should guarantee a faith response. Why doesn’t regeneration also guarantee a life time of sinless living? Why doesn’t the regenerated nature always cause us to choose to do right just as it caused us to believe? That is a question that I have never seen a Calvinist grapple with. Maybe I should pose the question in a post and see what responses we get.

    Some Calvinists are speculative in saying that one may be regenerated for quite some time before coming to faith. Some have said that there may be people who are born regenerated. Recently, I read a Calvinist (on the internet) speculate that some might die in a regenerated state without having come to saving faith. This seemed to be an attempt to give hope to people who had lost unbelieving loved ones in that they may be saved without them knowing it (not sure if this view means that such people will come to faith after death, or are just saved apart from faith simply because they were regenerated). I think this causes numerous theological absurdities, is contrary to “sola fide” and means that some die in unbelief and still escape condemnation, contrary to numerous plain Scriptures to the contrary.

    Hope that helps, but you are probably more confused than ever 🙂

    God Bless,
    Ben

  115. Ben – I am wondering if you can provide, or point me to, an Arminian exegesis of 2 Tim. 2.25-6? This scripture is often used by Calvinists as a counter to 1 Tim. 2.3, as well as to advance the idea that God has two wills, one of universal love to mankind, another more narrow in which He controls who will and won’t repent unto salvation (the latter underscored by 2 Tim. 2.25-26). I am looking for a good Arminian analysis here. Thank you. Tom

  116. Tom,

    Sorry it took me so long to get to your question.

    I don’t see anything in these verses that should lead one to the conclusion that the repentance spoken of here is irresistibly “given” or “granted”, nor that this is meant to convey the idea that God arbitrarily decides to cause some to repent while denying repentance to others (which would, as you point out, contradict Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 2:4 that God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth).

    Rather, the natural reading seems to simply be that through Timothy’s careful and gentle correction, those who oppose Timothy and sound teaching may find the ability and opportunity to “come to their senses” (literally, wake up as from a slumber or drunkenness) and repent as God empowers them through Timothy’s efforts. The idea is that through Timothy’s obedience in trying to reach these deluded individuals with the truth, they might come to repentance as God grants them the power and ability through Timothy’s words and the working of the Spirit that would accompany these words (as is always the case when men turn from error and turn towards God in faith). God’s use of Timothy and his gentle corrective teaching may lead them back to God in turning them from their false beliefs towards embracing again the saving “knowledge of the truth.”

    The technique Paul advocates seems to be tailored towards reaching these specific individuals. They are described as oppositional and “quarrelsome”, people who enjoy contesting the claims of others. Such people would likely respond to a strong rebuke with great resistance, but it may be that if they are approached in a gentle, careful and loving manner, that they will let down their guard long enough to actually consider a different view and possibly receive the saving instruction that they need (much like the old adage of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar- a lesson we would all do well to remember). Timothy’s gentle approach may also serve to shame them with regards to the very behavior that is causing them problems and creating a barrier for them to receive vital instruction and truth.

    Paul’s instruction to Timothy concerning the way he approaches them also underscores Paul’s desire for them to be saved, rather than just put in their place. This concern parallels God’s concern for all to be saved as Paul made clear in 1 Timothy 2:4. Any uncertainty with regards to God granting them repentance primarily lies in their potential response to Timothy’s corrective efforts, whether they will receive his correction (and as a result be led by God to repent) or resist his correction (thereby effectively shutting themselves off from this God given opportunity to rethink their situation and repent).

    It would really be no different than saying something like, “If you go and speak to that person, lovingly correcting her false perceptions of God and His word, God may use that to lead her to repentance.” However, we would never assume from this that God would lead her to repentance through that correction in an irresistible manner, nor would we assume that this means that God only desires to lead some to repentance, or causes some to repent irresistibly, while purposely denying this ability or opportunity to others. Rather, God’s desire is for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). So there is no inconsistency between 2 Timothy 2:25, 26 and the plain declaration of God’s desire for all to be saved through the Mediator who gave Himself as a ransom for all men (1 Tim. 2:1-6, cf. 4:10). The teachings of these passages are perfectly harmonious.

    Hope that helps,
    Ben

  117. I’m not sure if this is the proper place to ask the following question, but I’m sure someone can point me in the right direction.

    Do Arminians generally accept the idea that while God is over all, He has ordained specific jurisdictions for government (a civil government sphere, a family government sphere, and a church government sphere)? This makes sense to me and I see it played out in Scripture and even in how America’s founders set-up our government. I read a lot of information about this in Calvinist circles, but wondered if this idea is accepted as a whole in larger segments of Christianity as well. Side note: Within a smaller segment of Calvinism, I’ve understood that some (theonomists / reconstructionists) labor to bring back the penalties of the Old Testament, not separating civil law from moral law (while doing away with the ceremonial law) while the larger segment of Christianity seems to separate the O.T. civil law from moral law. Personally, I find it difficult to separate any laws as stated in the O.T into neat categories as they are interspersed and aren’t separated from one another in Scripture itself. I prefer to look at the principle behind the law and reason from there, applying it to modern-day life.

  118. Lori,

    I do believe that God delegates authority if that is what you are asking. I think that is rather standard thinking in all circles of Christianity and has tremendous Biblical support. This began with God giving Adam, and by extension, all of mankind, dominion over the earth in Genesis.

    I do not agree with theonomy. I think it is very problematic. I do think the ceremonial law has reached its fulfillment in Christ. The moral law remains the same, but now finds its fulfillment in the context of a love relationship with the Messiah, through whom we are empowered by His Spirit to obey the law and please God. I do not think that civil penalties attached to moral laws for the nation of Israel carry over to the new covenant. They were for the nation of Israel alone for specific reasons that applied only to Israel under that covenant. I don’t have the time to get into a lot of detail right now, and it is not really an area of study that greatly interests me or that I have spent a lot of time on. However, I hope that answers your question in general. I think your last sentence sums things up well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  119. Thank you for responding, Ben. I agree that theonomy is problematic.

    My main question is if other segments of Christianity outside of Calvinism group government into three different categories (the civil sphere, the familial sphere, and the ecclesiastical / church sphere). For instance, they point to Ephesians 6:4, Psalm 78:1-8, and Deut. 6:4-7 to show that the home sphere has the responsibility to nurture and educate children and provide for other family members. Based upon Matthew 28:18, the church sphere is to fulfill the great commission; educate parents and assist them in training their children; provide church doctrine, sacraments, and administer church discipline; provide for corporate worship; and administer help / welfare to the community through service. The civil sphere is to protect the innocent by punishing evil (Romans 13 and Genesis 9:6). All 3 of these spheres are under God, yet God has separated them from one another for specific purposes. (Think of 1 Sam. 13 when King Saul, a civil leader, performed the duty of a priest.)

    I understand that we are called to work to make a positive difference in an imperfect world, but based upon these Scriptures, they say that the civil government should not be providing welfare as that is the church’s job (or the family’s job to provide for their own family). They also say that it is not the government’s job to provide for public education as that is the responsibility of the family and/or of the private church school if delegated by the family.

    All this makes sense to me as I’ve come to see that education cannot be neutral as it is philosophical / religious in nature. When God is removed from any subject (history, math, science, etc.) it is inevitably replaced with another religion (socialism, humanism, etc.). As I am not a Calvinist, I just want to make sure that I’m not buying into a theological argument which is promoted by a system with which I do not agree.

  120. Lori,

    You don’t have to be a Calvinist to accept any of the theological ideas you have enumerated. Many fine theological concepts have come from the Calvinist camp that are useful to other groups of Christians. For example, I prefer to use a “transcendental” apologetic method even though it has mainly been popularized by Calvinists like Van Til and Bahnsen.

    Likewise, I think many Arminians would agree with you that church, state, and family are divinely-ordained spheres of government and that certain of their functions should not overlap – e.g., the state shouldn’t be the one excommunicating unrepentant sinners. But I’m not sure that we should limit the spheres of government to just three. For example, employees are to some degree governed by their employers, and slaves by their masters (leaving aside the thorny question of the precise biblical position on slavery).

    Furthermore, though Calvinists are the most vocal homeschool advocates, many Arminians advocate homeschooling as well. (I have known some personally). But we tend to be less dogmatic about it. For example, I don’t know that atheist math and Christian math are terribly different from one another, although atheist social studies and Christian social studies often are.

    Political theology is not discussed as frequently in Arminian circles, as Arminians are generally less politically savvy than Calvinists. I think this can be chalked up to the fact that postmillennialism is very popular among Calvinists, and that the Calvinistic understanding of the New Covenant is friendlier to theonomic ideas. Unfortunately the marriage of Calvinism and politics has sometimes borne bitter fruit, such religious persecutions, the South African apartheid, and “kinism.”

    For a good Arminian work on political theology, see Grotius’s “On the Law of War and Peace.” And also note that other non-Calvinists throughout church history have made important contributions to political theology – Augustine with his “City of God,” Alfred the Great, etc.

  121. Thank you for your comments, Dave. I will look into your reading suggestions. I happen to be a promoter of homeschooling as I am a homeschooling mom myself. The problem I’m finding with the idea of a public school education is that it cannot be neutral. Even subjects, such as geography, literature, and math cannot be taught apart from God’s influence upon the subject . (Mathematics: Is God Silent? by James Nickel). When one religion is removed from a classroom, another worldview such as socialism or humanism inevitable takes its place. I can understand why the Catholics protested that their children were being indoctrinated by Calvinists in the taxpayer-funded schools and wonder if the Puritans opened a bit of a Pandora’s box by suggesting education be paid for by public funds.

  122. Hey,
    I just found your site. What a great resource! I’m wondering how you deal with the calling of 1 Corinthians 1:23-24.

    23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    The called (v24) seem to be distinct from those “called” through the general call of the preaching of Christ crucified (v23). Do you explain this by saying they are those who have been effectively called by their belief (v21. God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe)?

    Thanks,
    Gary

  123. Hey Gary,

    Check out the following post. I think the articles linked to there will help you with your question.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/what-does-callingcalled-refer-to-in-the-bible/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  124. I’ve been studying original sin. I understand that Adam (and Eve collectively, I suppose) brought sin into this world of ours, but sin was already somewhat “around” because of satan’s fall. I also understand the theology behind the idea of bearing the actual guilt of Adam’s sin vs. bearing the sin nature. What I don’t understand is, why do theologians say that we are more predisposed to sin than Adam? He sinned just fine on his own given his free will (and his “perfect” nature). I can’t see myself doing any better given the chance, even in a perfect, paradise setting. Why is it said that we’ve inherited a sin nature? Has our free will been clouded that much more because of the generations upon generations of sinners (and thus, sin in the world) before us? I see this played out practiacally….one need not teach a toddler to sin. Unborn babies die in the womb even before given the opportunity to sin; death is one of the effects of the sin in the garden. Are my thoughts leading dangerously into semipelagianism territory? Please throw no stones; I’m not promoting this theology, just trying to wrestle with these thoughts. Thanks!

  125. Lori,

    I am not sure I am fully understanding your question. Could you be more specific as to what you want me to address?

    Thanks,
    Ben

  126. Why is it said that we’ve INHERITED a sin nature rather than being born in a “good” state or even a “neutral” (neither good or bad) state? Why is it said we are PREDISPOSED to sin? Adam and Eve were not predisposed to sin, yet they easily sinned on their own without having inherited such a nature. Is it because we can see the effects of sin upon the earth even upon the “innocent” (a child dying in the womb)?

  127. Lori,

    It is true that Adam and Eve sinned without a sinful nature, but that doesn’t really argue against our having one. I do think we can draw the conclusion of a corrupt nature from experience as you point out, but Scripture does seem to strongly support the idea of a corrupt fallen nature that tends towards sin. Portions of Romans chapters 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are a good place to start.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  128. I was doing some studying in Hebrews, and I hit what appears to be a snag, and wanted your insight. In Hebrews 12:14-17 we see the following

    “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done”

    The snag I hit is when I went to Genesis to reference this event, i.e. the sale of Esau’s birthright and the attempt at repentance, I can’t find where Esau tried to undo what he had done. I do find a reference to Esau not getting his blessing from his father, but I can’t see any connection between that event, and the sale of his birthright. Is there a mistake in the Bible?

  129. Matthew,

    It has reference to Esau trying to get Isaac to give him the blessing after the blessing had already been given to Jacob. The “repentance” most likely has reference to not being able to change Isaac’s mind about the blessing.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  130. Oh, the connection is simply that Esau sold and despised his birthright when he sold it to Jacob for a bowl of soup. Later, as the writer notes, he still tried to receive the blessing, but the blessing had already been given to Jacob.

  131. I am young and new to the concept of predestination and am having trouble with it. I cant accept that God would create a being destined for hell, or that He would choose some for salvation and not others when their choices and actions are his doing, as expressed by Calvinism.
    But I accept that in his sovereignty He can reject anyone and save anyone as He so wills.
    But he is all loving, I believe this to death, I believe there isn’t a soul in all creation he doesn’t love. I believe he hates sinners as well. In my view “hate” doesn’t imply “does not love”, belief in Christ clears us of the tittle “sinner” though we may sin, when judgement comes it will not be counted against us but rather righteousness.
    After being presented with strict Calvinistic views on predestination without another view, and then quoted at with lists of scripture, that I didn’t know at the time was quoted out of context, I was deeply depressed. I’d been told that the love of Jesus, the love my life was held up by, was a lie, and that was, apparently, biblical. It made me doubt my faith and God’s love.
    THIS IS THE DANGER OF STRICT CALVINISM.
    I believe that it was only the blessing that i am surrounded by christian friends that helped me through. If I was told that God only loves some and chooses to leave others to eternal damnation upon creation, and then shown (albeit out of context), where it was in the bible a year ago, when my faith was much younger, I highly doubt that I would have kept faith.
    After much research and digging my bible, I believe God predestined the followers of Christ, not the individual, to receive salvation through his son. Weather we follow Christ is entirely our free will, but that doesn’t mean that we gained it by any of our works because even if we made the choice to follow Christ God ultimately makes the choice to save those who make that choice. A choice is not a work. When I’m in heaven and I’m asked, by what means am I there? I will not be able to answer, “by my choice”, but the only answer I can rightly give is “by Gods grace and love”.
    But I am still having trouble with a few things, I have views on them but I’m not convinced of them:
    1) Romans 9:17. Did God create Pharaoh to display his wrath? Was there hope for Pharaoh.
    I like to think that there was. When the bible says “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” I do not think it means
    “For this I created you, that I might display my wrath”,
    as many have tried to convince me, but I think it means,
    “For this purpose I made you Pharaoh, that i might bring you down to display my power”.
    2) Even if we must choose Jesus to be saved, are we able to make that choice without God’s intervention in their hearts? If not, then doesn’t God still choose who to make come to Christ. The corollary being that God looks upon a completely deprived world, where all are sinners, and for some reason picks and chooses who will be saved, and therefore who will be left for hell.
    Currently I think that God presents the gift of faith to all but not all receive it. I do not believe that some are incapable of receiving it, but that in our sin some refuse it. But i cant elaborate on how one would be moved to accept faith without God intervening in their hearts?
    3) Why would God create beings he knew would not choose his son, and therefore be destined for hell?
    I believe Satan corrupted his creation, but this just creates more questions, like: Why did God allow this? Why did god create Satan knowing he would rebel and corrupt man, dooming some of the children God loves so much to an eternity in hell?
    I’m very confused on these matter and they have been really affecting my life?
    May God bless you all,
    Aaron

  132. I have struggled with that idea of predestination as well. On the one hand, I believe that the Calvinistic idea of God choosing people to go to hell is offensive and seems cruel, but on the other hand, even as an Arminian, we still have the basic problem of God choosing to allow people to be born when He knows they will refuse to accept Jesus, and they will go to hell. The bottom line is that when we are given a choice, and we refuse Jesus, that’s on us. If we were to simply be born into sin, and have no hope of ever accepting Jesus or being saved, then that makes God the bad guy, and the author of sin. Arminianism makes man the bad guy, Calvinism makes God the bad guy. You mentioned that we can only make the choice to be saved if God calls us, and that is true. One thing Calvinists miss is that the Bible tells us that God is calling ALL mankind to Himself. They think that if that were true, NOBODY could resist, but I don’t believe the HS is a dictator, but a gentle and firm guide, exposing our state of sin and fallness to us, and giving us the choice. I do NOT believe God hates sinners, that is an understandable but bad mistake that Calvinists make. It’s not the sinner that God hates, it’s the sin. The Bible tells us plainly that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, not the men themselves. The thing to remember is that when someone willfully stands in rebellion and sin, they are placing themselves in what God hates, so in essence He hates them; not the people themselves, but their attitude and lack of humility. If God literally hated any sinner, He would not warn them to repent, and I see NO EVIDENCE that any sin is worse than any other, in the sight of God. God allowed Satan to sin for the same reason He allowed us to sin, because He wants beings to worship and serve Him willingly, so without the possibility of rebellion, true worship is not possible.

  133. Oh, and one other thing I forgot to mention. The “Gift of faith” is not the same as saving faith. The gift of faith clearly is something that only one who is already saved by faith in Jesus can receive, and it is on the same level of the other gifts, i.e. tongues,healing, etc.

  134. Thank-you very much Matt for responding to my previous comment :). I thought about this till stupid’o’clock in the morning for the past few days now and one thought has been, God created man knowing him, he created the earth and it inhabitants and our relationship with him was perfect before the fall. So upon creation we were all destined to be with him. I believe our reason for creation was to have an eternal relationship with God, that we might love Him and He might love us. Upon creation of Adam and Eve he knew their descendants, he created them (us). Maybe if the fall never happened we would be here and we would all know God, everything would still be “good” Genesis 1:34. But the fall happened when Satan tempted eve, but Satan fell outside of the creation of earth therefore possibly outside the creation of time, and also in the heavens. We can have no idea what God has already done and enacted or why, neither can we know how things and logic works outside time and in the heavens. He’s clearly done creation before us, hence angels, was was can’t know. All we can know is that god doesn’t want any of us to go to hell, he want us all in heaven. 1 John 3:9
    I feel much more confident in what the bible says predestination is. That God has not predestined the individual but the Christians, he has predestined the salvation of Christians, and all are welcome to be christian through his son. I’m still not sure what to think of election? what is it and what does it mean. How does it fit with the fact that God loves all?

  135. Aaron,

    You wrote,

    After much research and digging my bible, I believe God predestined the followers of Christ, not the individual, to receive salvation through his son. Weather we follow Christ is entirely our free will, but that doesn’t mean that we gained it by any of our works because even if we made the choice to follow Christ God ultimately makes the choice to save those who make that choice. A choice is not a work. When I’m in heaven and I’m asked, by what means am I there? I will not be able to answer, “by my choice”, but the only answer I can rightly give is “by Gods grace and love”.

    This is basically correct in my opinion. I hold to corporate election which describes this basic view in a more precise manner. It holds that when the Bible speaks about election unto salvation it is speaking of the elect body of believers, those joined to the chosen (elect) covenant Head- Jesus Christ. We are elect “in Him” (Eph. 1:4) and not elect “to be in Him” as Calvinism essentially teaches. Jesus is the elect One and we become elect by being in Him. So the individual’s elect status is dependent on being joined to the Elect covenant Head and His covenant people, and we are joined to Him by faith. Predestination has to do with the predetermined destiny of Christ’s covenant people. They will share in Christ’s inheritance and life, but only so long as they remain joined to Him (John 15; Rom. 11). Rom. 11 makes this point very clearly in the imagery of the olive tree. The tree represents God’s elect throughout the ages, culminating in those who are elect by being in Christ. Israel used to draw there elect status through identification with the covenant heads, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But now they must come to identify with Christ and be joined to Him since He is the promised “Seed”. Therefore, many have been “broken off” through unbelief (since many Jews rejected Christ as God’s ultimate covenant Head), while others were grafted in (and thereby became elect) by faith.

    That is what Rom. 9-11 is primarily concerned with. It is about God’s right to make Christ His covenant Head and to make the condition for being His covenant people faith, rather than works or ancestry, which has opened the door for Gentiles to become God’s elect people as Gentiles, rather than as Jews. That is what the Jews had a problem with and that is why so many had been “broken off”.

    Here is a link to some good resources on the corporate election view that I think will really help you along:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination

    And here is a short post on Rom. 9 I wrote that may help as well:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/an-apparently-not-so-brief-response-to-c-michael-patton-on-rom-9/

    Currently I think that God presents the gift of faith to all but not all receive it. I do not believe that some are incapable of receiving it, but that in our sin some refuse it. But i cant elaborate on how one would be moved to accept faith without God intervening in their hearts?

    Arminianism teaches that God must intervene in our hearts to make faith possible. The only difference between Arminianism and Calvinism on that score is that in Arminianism we can resist God’s work and continue to reject Him.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  136. Thank-you Ben,

    After thinking long and hard about the biblical stance I think arminian views are the closest of all the “ism”s so far. I think when people say the aren’t biblically correct because they imply that man contributes to his salvation through works i think there misinterpreting ariminianism. In no way is a choice a work and I don’t think God sees it that way either “by faith and not works” and at the end of it all God provided the way and he ultimately choose’s to save those who choose him (predestination and election)

    I’ve been researching like mad since and I’m much more comfortable with the words predestination and elect. I can now equate Gods almighty sovereignty with his unending unlimited love rather than contemplating they contract as i was told 🙂 Why cant god in his truly almighty sovereignty create man with real free will, that we can do things without him making us, without him even having to plan it. HE knows what we will do of course, but he didn’t have to plan it. To say that he has to plan everything, or else he’s a week God, is to deny his true almighty power in creation to make anything.

    I’m not worried about friends and others being dammed to hell with no hope anymore.
    2 Peter 3:9 is clear, anything that contradicts that is probably out of context, and even if its not 2 Peter 3:9 still stands.

    I even get Romans 9: 14-25, were not the pots, were the clay, (Jeremiah 18) and we’ve all spoiled so it is fitting that god makes us into common vessels as he see fit. But in Christ were not spoiled (fallen sinners) were righteous, so God makes us into vessels of special use as he sees fit 🙂

    As for why God allowed the fall I reckon the bible doesn’t say. God has clearly done creation before, hence angels. The bible is about his relationship with us and so we cant even begin to comprehend anything outside of time or this world that has, is or will happen, or why it happened and what happens because of it. But what we can know is there’s a reason god allowed the fall and 2 Peter 3:9 🙂

    I looked into every single proof text that Calvinists use and found the true context. There is just one that I’m having trouble with,
    2 Timothy 2:10,
    and a good brake down of the chapter including that verse is not on the internet or in any books i know that i know of? Can anyone help on this?

    God bless,
    A much happier Aaron 🙂

  137. A few mistake in that:
    contract instead of contradict
    HE or he instead of He
    and I looked into every Calvinist proof text I could find
    There’s probably a lot more as well.

  138. Here’s a slightly off topic question. Were people predestined to heaven or hell before the cross? I hear a lot of people say that before Jesus came, people were saved by trusting in the coming Messiah, or that they had the gospel preached to them in the underworld, but the evidence is sketchy at best for these ideas.. What was God’s way of salvation before men had missionaries bringing the gospel to them?

  139. We’ll i dont think God predestines anyone for heaven or hell, but that he predestines christians as a people. A christian being someone who believes in Jesus our Lord, but I guess in the OT what the Lord had revealed to man of himself was different so faith would be different. I dont know how God has set it up but I know its his will that all should reach repentance.
    Possibly Genisis 15:6 gives a bit of an insight into faith back then. God is timeless and unchanging so I feel like the hope we have today was open to all even in the OT. I’m really intersted in this question.

  140. could someone please tell me an arminian interpretation of 2 timothy 2:10?

  141. Hey aaron,

    Did you see that Ben said he would address that text in his upcoming series on Calvinist proof texts in response to your request?

  142. Aaron: the best way to think about 2tim 2:10 is Corporate Election. Nothing in the text says that the elects were unconditionally chosen – and even, how Paul knows the “chosen ones”?

    My question is: how I can refute the Vincent Cheung’s text about Matthew 23:37?
    Here is the PDF: http://www.vincentcheung.com/other/matt23-37.pdf

    I have read the exposition of James White, but the most difficult part is the “Jesus was not a God” argument.

    Please sorry about my bad English… 😐

  143. credulo,

    I think Cheung’s exegesis is wrong. I wrote a post on that interpretation a long time ago. Much could be added to the points I made in that post, but it is a good place to start: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/calvinism-and-free-will-an-exegetical-vindication-of-matthew-2337/

    As far as the “Jesus was not God” argument, I am not sure what you are referring to.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  144. Many Thankz, Kangaroodort!

    Basically, Cheung states that Jesus was talking the sermon like a man, and not like God. This is the textblock:

    “And since the gathering is referring to the ministry on a human and external level, it does not demand a divine subject. The fact that a ministry is resisted on a human level says nothing about divine sovereignty or human freedom on a metaphysical level.”

  145. Credulo,

    I thought that may have been what you were referencing, but the way you initially put it made me wonder. Someone who read your comments sent me an e-mail addressing the issue and I think it is spot on. Here is the comment:

    “I think this is a simplistic and artificial argument, though it might have some rhetorical effect, sort of like the dead in sin C argument. I think it is problematic for Christology. (1) As the God-man, Jesus desired Jerusalem’s repentance. It’s not like his will as God was different than his will as man. There might even be some heresy in there from Cheung. (2) Scripture tells us Jesus always did what the Father wanted him to do, represented the Father perfectly, only did what he saw the Father doing, etc. As the God-man, if Jesus willed to eat, then it was also God’s will for him to eat. So although the Father might not have desired to eat, Jesus’ will to eat entails that it was God’s will for him to eat. Similarly, even if any sort of difference between the divine and human wills of Jesus were intended, it would still prove God wanted Jerusalem to come to Jesus, which is the very thing Cheung is trying to deny and refute. And of course, coming to Jesus is coming to God anyway! (3) Even if a lot of Cheung’s unsound argument were granted for the sake of argument, it seems like special pleading to take bodily, physical desires of Jesus inherent to him being human, and then equating them to moral desires. The latter are exactly the types of things we would expect to be the sort of things in which the divine and human natures of Christ would be united on. (4) Jesus was the official representative of the Father and acting as a prophet. His actions toward Israel were representative of God in way they would not be in satisfying his physical desires/needs. (5) Various other passages reveal God’s will not being done, being resisted etc. Esp. powerful are ones that speak of God’s purpose not being done, such as the one in Neh 9.”

  146. I would add that it is interesting that Cheung uses another sort “two wills” argument here while blasting the typical Calvinist “two wills in God” argument as nonsensical (and I agree with him on that).

  147. I am the one who sent Ben the email.

    I want to make sure that the impression is not given that Jesus had only one will. That is the heresy of monothelitism.

    Jesus did have a divine will and a human will. But the human will always subjected itself to the divine will. So even when Jesus said to the father, “not my will, but yours be done”, he was indicating that he actually willed for the Father’s will to be done over his good and holy desire not to suffer. Indeed, we must assume that God also did not want Christ to have to suffer, but that given it was the only way to save us, he willed it, just as Christ did not want to have to suffer, but since it was the Father’s will and the only way to save us, he submitted his will to the Father’s and willed to suffer and die for us too.

    This seems similar to the issue of us having multiple desires, yet our “will” may be called that desire which we choose above all competing desires (so the strongest desire, not inherently, but by our assignment). I was using “will” in this sense in my comments. Jesus may have had any number of good and holy desires which he did not will in that sense. But none of them were at odds with God’s will in general (i.e., none of them were sinful). And his final will so to speak was always in harmony with God’s final will. But it is highly improbable that Jesus is basically saying: “One of my desires among my varying desires was that you would come to me [but I would not have actually chosen for you to come to me; I actually wanted you *NOT* to come to me more] yet you were not willing to come to me.” His focus is on his will vs. their contrary will. It is implausible to suggest that we are to assume that his comments are actually to be understood as implying that he and they ultimately willed the same thing, that they not come to him.

    So Cheung’s view is just a mess. It seems he has a dilemma: (1) Ascribe to a traditional Calvinist 2 wills theory in God here, which he rejects for being nonsensical (cf. Ben’s comment), or (2) hold that Christ’s human will was not always submitted to his divine will so that God willed one thing and Christ willed contrary to that.

    Cheung’s possible heresy is at the point at which he might suggest that Jesus’ human will was actually contrary to his divine will, desiring one thing most whereas his divine will desired something else most. The NET Bible note captures the sense of the text much more reasonably and exegetically: “Jesus, like a lamenting prophet, speaks for God here, who longed to care tenderly for Israel and protect her.”

  148. Many thankz, boyz!

    Ops, another thing: can I translate to my native language some of your posts, Ben and Thibodaux?

  149. Hey

    A few comments back i asked again for an explanation of 2 timothy 2:10 i didnt see that Ben said he would answer it in his series :S (has that been completed yet? i look forward to reading it but i haven’t found it yet)

    Thank-you for the answers, but I think the way its confusing me is a little different. The issue im struggeling with is not the word elect but rather the order implied when Paul says he endures all thing for the elect that they may be saved. This to me at the moment this is impling that the elect are elected before they are saved, but i thought in corporate election the elect are the same as the saved? It seems to imply that some have been chosen before hand, before they are saved? It seems like Paul is talking about unbelievers that are destined to be believers?

    God bless
    Aaron

  150. Aaron,

    I have been really busy lately. I do intend to address the passage in detail in a future post but haven’t gotten to it yet. I will give you a brief explanation here without having looked closely at the passage in a while.

    First, it is problematic for the Calvinist position since the elect are either already saved or certain to be saved in Calvinism. Yet Paul’s words indicate uncertainty. It is similar to when Peter warns his readers to make their election sure. I think the passage fits better with the corporate view. Paul is speaking about those who are in Christ by faith and are therefore “the elect” presently. But since election does not guarantee final salvation, since those who are in the elect body can still be broken off through unbelief (Rom. 11), Paul is speaking about his struggle to keep the elect in the faith until they reach final salvation. So Paul’s focus is on perseverance in faith and not on how one becomes elect or at what point one can be considered elect, though his words imply that election is based current faith in Christ and not on a secret eternal selection of certain sinners to eventually come to faith. Hope that helps.

  151. credulo,

    Go for it.

  152. Hello again!
    What about this calvinist exegesis of 2 peter 2:1?

    http://www.apuritansmind.com/arminianism/exegesis-of-2-peter-21-dr-matthew-mcmahon/
    and
    http://vintage.aomin.org/2PE21.html

    Many thankz in advance!

  153. Hi,

    Does anyone know of a good book that gives both a biography of Augustine and his theology? I am looking for a book that will give me an in-depth understanding of how he came up with the doctrines that both Luther and Calvin came to embraced.

    Dale

  154. Credulo,

    I have seen both of those and I find them both very weak and problematic. The one at AOM admits that it can only work against Arminians who hold to eternal security (though I am not sure that is entirely accurate). Since I do not hold to eternal security, his argument has no force against my view. The other one is very weak as well, if not more so, in suggesting that being bought was only how they perceived themselves to be and not true of them in reality. That is strongly against the language of the passage. Peter is clearly speaking of things as they are and not how things may only appear to them. Would we likewise see the rest of how Peter describes them as only how they perceive themselves to be, but not in reality how they are? Of course not. Such attempts to get around this passage show just how devestating it is to Calvinism.

  155. Dale,

    You could buy his primary works and try to see how they developed over time. If you want to see an Arminian work that traces his beliefs and how his theology developed and influenced the early Reformers, I highly recommend God’s Strategy in Human History (http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Human-History-Roger-Forster/dp/1579102735/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327419896&sr=8-1). They have a very good and detailed chapter on the subject.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  156. Ben,

    Thanks for your reply. I’ll check into the book.

    Dale

  157. I don’t believe in Calvinism at all to the point of it being blasphemy against God, because it directly goes against “God is love”. However, this morning I read a scripture that I have no answer for -1Co 1:8. “Confirm” is future active indicative, which means this is something that is fact and has to come to pass. How is this viewed in light of Armenianism? Thanks for your response.

  158. Also, can you direct me to any articles you (or anyone else) has on “called” and “chosen”? Thank you.

  159. Many thankz!
    My doubts are about the ‘commercial theory’ of Atonement: if Christ paid your sin, you will be saved. It is against the Provisional Theory – but the Bible use the commercial analogy sometimes, and I was confused.

    Ans, what about Thibodaux? He is no more posting?

  160. What about this ‘limited atonement’ verse: 1Samuel 3:14?

    I thunk that it is because Eli, Hophni and Phineas committed very hard sins, and no atonement are for ‘un-atonable’ sins. That is right?

  161. Paul,

    I don’t see a problem with 1 Cor. 1:8. Paul can be using this in a conditional sense in assuming they will continue to believe. In other words, though the end result is guaranteed, it is only guaranteed to those who continue to believe. Also, it should be noted that this can be taken as referring to the church, the corporate body of Christ (as the context would suggest, cf. vs. 2). In that case, the certainty can apply to the corporate body of believers while the individuals’ participation in that certainty is contingent on remaining in that body through faith (cf. Rom. 11 and the imagery of the olive tree, etc.).

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,

    Ben

  162. I hope to get to some of these other questions in a few days.

  163. Okay. Thanks for responding.

  164. Paul,

    Concerning calling and being called, I would check out the articles linked to here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/what-does-callingcalled-refer-to-in-the-bible/

    Concerning chosen, or election in general, I recommend the corporate view. Here is a link to an article that will give you several links to check out on the subject after a short concise description of the view. The links go to some scholarly works that are very detailed.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination

  165. credulo,

    Could you be a little more clear as to what you are looking for in your question about 1 Samuel 3:14? Thanks.

  166. Kangaroodort: the verse says:

    For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
    And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.
    1 Samuel 3:13-14

    I think that this verse can be used to defend the Limited Atonement. My response to tis pressuposed challenge is that the sins commited by Eli and his sons will not be purged because God would not apply the atonement to him.

    Is this a right reasoning?

  167. credula,

    With regards to the passage concerning Eli, it may imply a measure of limiting to the atonement. However, it is far from what Calvinists claim concerning the limited atonement in which God decreed from all eternity who would be saved and made atonement through Christ only for them. In the case of Eli it is an issue of severe judgment on Eli’s sons for spurning God’s grace and insulting God and His people through their actions as priests.

    The point to keep in mind is that the passage nowhere says that there was never any atonement available for them, only that there would no longer be consequent to God’s judgment (which actually implies that sacrifices could make atonement for them prior to that time). God certainly has the right to withdraw further opportunity for atonement and to refuse to forgive in bringing appropriate judgment on His people for certain sins. The OT speaks of the presumptuous sin for which there was no forgiveness. Such sins cut one off from the covenant community making it impossible for them to benefit from the sacrifices of God’s people. Some scholars believe that irrevocable apostasy in the NT is in the same category of presumptuous sin in the OT. As in Hebrews, the writer states that for the apostate, “there remains no more sacrifice for sins.”

    But again, that God at some point refuses to work any longer with a rebellious sinner or denies that person further opportunity for atonement (which assumes that such a person would take advantage of such an opportunity, which may not be the case at all), does not mean that God did not make a provision for them that they could have taken advantage of (and in the case of the apostate, did indeed take advantage of prior to rejecting it).

    Oh, I should also point out, with regards to Eli’s household, it may be a reference not so much to them not being able to receive any forgiveness for their actions, but to the irrevocable consequences to the family despite any of them being personally forgiven. Either way, it is hardly a support for the Calvinist conception of limited atonement.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  168. I have found very little regarding the Aminian interpretation of the following passages of Scriptures….Perhaps you can help me:

    1 Cor. 6:9,10
    Gal. 5:19-21
    Eph. 5:5-7

    1 Jn. 3:5-9 (especially 6 & 9)
    1 Jn. 5:18

    Thank You

  169. Steve,

    It might be a little while before I can get to this.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  170. Thank you

  171. Just another thing: how I can refute the ‘two calls’ argument of Calvinists? It is very intricate – and the ‘but there is no indicative of irresistibility of grace in the case of Cornelius’ is not so compelling…

    In fact, even Cheung uses it in Matthew 23:37, in the ‘Jesus was not God’ argument 🙂

  172. credulo,

    The so called “two calls” is a total invention of Calvinism. It is not drawn from Scriptures and cannot be proved from Scriptures. The Bible nowhere says anything about two different calls, one general to all and one effectual to some. That is something that Calvinists have read into Scripture to make sense of their system and to deal with the many passages that plainly show God calling on all to repent and believe the gospel.

    Why should you feel compelled to “refute” something that the Calvinist cannot demonstrate from Scripture? It is not up to you to refute the “two calls”, it is up to them to show that it is a Biblical teaching. That is something they cannot do without massive question begging (assuming the two calls are true and then reading that into passages that do not actually state such a thing). In other words, it is just an assertion by Calvinists for the sake of keeping their system from falling apart in the face of so many passges that teach that God is calling all to repentence so that all will be saved (with the obvious implication that God wants all to be saved and makes it possible for all to be saved). Is there a particular argument you have heard that you feel you need answer or refute?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  173. BTW, if you want to better understand what the Biblical meaning of “called” and “calling” is, be sure to read the two articles linked to in this post: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/what-does-callingcalled-refer-to-in-the-bible/

  174. I am currently searching the Scriptures on the doctrines of grace and while I have been raised in what may be described as an Arminian background, a lot of the strong Christian influences God has brought into my life have Calvinist beliefs. This has caused me to re-examine my own beliefs and I realize that I’ve never done a good job of deciding why I believe what I believe on many doctrinal issues. What I have tried to do is find decent books on theology as a whole (since soteriology is not the only doctrine I want to study) from both major camps. I currently have “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem and “Grace, Faith, and Holiness” by H. Ray Dunning. While Dunning’s work has been very helpful in understanding some aspects of theology and in building up my faith, I am tired of a theology text that quotes John Wesley more than the Bible and it has been insufficient to answer some of the greatest objections Calvinists have.

    So my question is this: Are the members of this site aware of any Bible-based (by which I mean it derives doctrine from direct scriptural support) exhaustive theology texts comparable to Grudem’s work in scholarship and readability? If not, I really hope J.C. might consider writing one, because I have certainly appreciated his depth of knowledge and succinctness in explaining issues of faith.

    Thanks

  175. You may enjoy reading some works from Free Will Baptists like F. Leroy Forlines and Robert Picirilli. Picirilli wrote, Grace, Faith, Free Will, and Forlines wrote a sytematic called The Quest For Truth. That last book was recently reprinted and edited to focus only on the material addressing the A/C debate (which is extensive). The new edited version is called Classical Arminianism. I. Howard Marshall has recently written and published a systematic theology as well (http://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/pocket-guide-new-testament-theology/i-howard-marshall). He is a major Arminian scholar. I also highly recommend reading Abasciano’s many articles and publications dealing with corporate election and especially Romans 9. You will find all of his available works at the Society of Evangelical Arminians. His doctorate, which was edited into his first book on Romans 9, is available to read on line for free. Here is a link to tons of resources and books that would probably help you out:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=node/94

    Hope that helps.

    Ben

  176. Thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely check them out!

  177. How would you interpret John 6:44,45 from an Arminian perspective? I had a pastor who told me that it was verse 45 that convinced him to switch sides and become a Calvinist.

    Steve S.

  178. Steve,

    You should ask your pastor why that verse sealed it for him. I find that strange. I think verse 45 explains verse 44 in a way that supports Arminianism rather than Calvinism. I will comment further when I get a little more time.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  179. undecided berean,

    The NT theology by Marshall you want is actually New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (http://www.amazon.com/New-Testament-Theology-Witnesses-Gospel/dp/0830827951) rather than the one Ben mentioned. The one Ben mentioned is on a more popular level. Both are only NT theologies. But the fuller one is award winning and perhaps considered the best NT theology available, and is at least among the very best, and by a seasoned and distinguished NT scholar and exegete.

    For systematic theologies, you should go to the Links and Books page at the Society of Evangelical Arminians website: http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=node/94 and search (using control F) on the term systematic. There are various ones you can access for free there, and also a link to a list of more modern ones. Besides the one by Forlines Ben mentioned, another modern one comparable to Grudem (though not as detailed) would be this one by Stanley Grenz: http://www.amazon.com/Theology-Community-God-Stanley-Grenz/dp/0802847552/ref=cm_lmf_tit_19.

    BTW, if you run into Calvinist arguments you think are good, you should bring them here and ask about them. often there are already articles here or at the Society of Evangelical Arminians website that debunk them.

    God bless!

  180. That was many years ago….We are long out of touch now.

  181. Is there a particular argument you have heard that you feel you need answer or refute?

    Nothing in special. The two-calls, two-wills arguments are very common, and the Calvinists are very lavish when use them. There is a video of John Piper about it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Ux7S50zAI) – but your ‘shift the burden of proof’ approach is good enough. Many thanks!

    Another thing: can you recommend something about Molinism?

  182. I have certainly enjoyed the fellowship here with serious disciples of the Word. Thank you for allowing me access. We have just recently become aware of this,”another Gospel”! We’ve been reading your site with great anticipation. From time to time, I do have questions that may help to understand God’s Word better. It would be beneficial in this quest to find an exegeses on Ephesians 2: 8,9, and determine if the gift of God is referring to salvation or faith and to me it makes a big difference. Faith, I believe is given to everyone to answer our God-given “conscience,which either accuses or excuses our thinking and actions.

  183. credulo,

    I am not a Molinist, though I do hold to middle knowledge. I would recommend reading Molina or William Lane Craig. Craig is probably the biggest proponent and defender of Molinism in Christian circles today. He has many articles at his site.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  184. Steve S.,

    The short answer is that those who come to the Son are those who learn from the Father. Those who learn from the Father will naturally recognize the Father in the Son and in His words and be drawn to Him. Only those who learn from/know the Father are given to the Son. Here is something I wrote in another post that might be helpful:

    “Not of God” [in John 8] simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims. Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45). As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45). None of these passages say anything about an unconditional eternal election being behind the description of these Jews as “not of God.” Such an idea is only read into these passages by Calvinists…. Second, as mentioned above, their inability to hear was not because God wasn’t working, but because they were resisting that working. Clearly, Jesus is still trying to reach them (8:27-31, 36, cf. John 5:44; 10:37, 38), which would be senseless if He viewed them as hopeless reprobates. This is especially evident in Christ’s statement to the same sort of resistant Jews in John 5 where Christ both declares their inability and yet tells them, “…not that I accept human testimony, but I mention it that you may be saved”, vs. 34. This is especially relevant to my point since the “testimony” Christ refers to is the prior testimony of John the Baptist. Christ then points them to other “testimonies” like His miracles, the Scriptures in general, and Moses, obviously implying that through the acceptance of these testimonies they may yet be enabled to “come to” Him and be “saved”, cf. vss. 39, 40.

    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.

    From: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/%e2%80%9csaved-by-grace%e2%80%9d-through-faith/

  185. Yochanan,

    Thanks for stopping by. The language is probably inconclusive, but it is generally held that the Grammar doesn’t really fit the idea that the “gift” is faith. However, it could refer to the whole economy of salvation by faith through grace. There is some debate on those issues. Still, given the context, it seems that the gift most likely refers to salvation, and it is highly unlikely, given the grammar and context, that faith can be considered the “gift”.

    As an Arminian, it really doesn’t matter if the gift is faith since Arminians do believe that faith is a gift from God in the sense that no one could believe if God didn’t first enable a faith response. That is what we call prevenient grace- the grace that precedes and makes faith possible. In that case, to receive the gift of faith would simply be to believe as God enables us. The key difference is that the Arminian sees this enabling as resistible. God makes faith possible, but we can resist God’s working and continue in unbelief.

    I will try to find some helpful articles for you when I get the time.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  186. I have a few questions about certain Arminian doctrines. The first is on the doctrine of Calling: What is the Arminian view of being “called”? How is it different than the Calvinist view?
    My second, third, and fourth questions are on the doctrine of Corporate Election: How do you interpret Galatians 1:15 in light of Corporate Election? Paul’s statement seems to be individualistic. And does the “elect lady” spoken of in 2 John 1:1 support individualistic election? (My Calvinist friend thinks it does). And finally, my Calvinist said, If Corporate Election is true, how were the people before Noah elected?
    I personally believe in Corporate Election. I have my own answers to these questions but I’m convinced by your articles that you have much more biblical knowledge than I do.
    If you don’t have time to answer all my questions I completely understand.
    Thank you so much for your time. -Richard

  187. Richard,

    I hope to get to your questions tomorrow or later this week. In the meantime, here are some resources on corporate election that should be very helpful to you:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/corporate-election-resources/

  188. Hi,
    I just recently discovered your site.

    My pastor this past Sunday preaching on Eph. 4:20-24, stated that in v.22 where Paul talks about putting off the old self, that in Greek, the tense is that of a once and for all completed action.
    Would this have any implications for the view that Christians can apostasize? If the putting off of the old self is a once and for all action, how should we, then, interpret all those warning verses about not falling away? Are they purely rhetorical?

    Thanks.
    Ken

  189. ksed,
    Don’t know how your pastor can say that. The morphology here is Second Aorist tense, Middle voice and Infinitive mood. So it means exactly as it’s written – “you put off”, the subject of the sentence himself performing the action on himself in past time. The aorist tense does not denote “a once and for all completed action”.
    The Perfect tense describes an action which is viewed as having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated. Jesus’ last cry from the cross, TETELESTAI (“It is finished!”) is a good example of this tense being used – hence 1Co 10:20.
    I think you should ask your pastor to show you how he has arrived at his conclusion, and if he can’t, he should correct his error before the congregation, because even elders have to be teachable. 2Ti 3:16,

  190. If you need proof for this and you don’t possess a TVM reference at home, go here:
    http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Eph&c=4&v=22&t=KJV#conc/22
    Click on “TENSE” to the right of “put off”.

  191. Paul,

    I appreciate your help, but your response is a little confusing to me. My understanding of the aorist is that it does generally describe a past completed action, though it can be timeless as well. I haven’t looked it up yet to see if it is a main verb or a participal, which can have some impact on how it could be understood. However, the fact that the aorist describes a completed action certainly does not mean it can never again be repeated. That is something the Grammar simply cannot dictate. In that case, the pastor has really stretched the Greek beyond its capabilities.

    Your description of the Perfect actually sounds more like a description of an aorist tense. The Perfect denotes a completed action with ongoing results up to the time of the speaker or writer. It is a past action with continuing results.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  192. In my response, It seems ksed’s pastor was implying that, whatever unstated tense he was referring to, it was proving that once the old man was put off, it was permanent and it could never be put back on. I disagree that the old man cannot be put back on and I believe Christians can apostasize.

    I did not state or imply that the aorist tense means action cannot be repeated. The aorist by definition does, in most cases, denote past tense, but it doesn’t at all mean action cannot be repeated. I even stated “The aorist tense does not denote “a once and for all completed action”, which means the action can be repeated. My wording may have been confusing, but anything done in the past is completed action. I was comparing it to the Perfect tense as referrence, which does denote completed action with ongoing and continuing results, and at least two grammars say it is “a once and for all completed action”.
    God bless you, too, brother.

  193. Paul,

    I didn’t mean to imply that you thought the aorist couldn’t be repeated or anything like that. That was more of a response to Ken. I was a little confused as to how you described the aorist and the perfect, but it sounds like we are on the same page. I just didn’t want Ken to get the wrong impression.

    However, to say an action in the past is necessarily completed doesn’t seem quite accurate to me. I think the perfect, for example, could be understood in the sense that since the action has continuing results it is not necessarily completed in that sense. So the action had a beginning point, but the action is ongoing. Just a subtlety with regards to what we mean by “completed” I guess.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  194. Can someone give me an explaination and insite , with detail of these scriptures; John6:64-70 and 2 Timothy 2:10 dealing in refrence to election, the way it is word seems as if it was for Calvinist. However I do know that God has great foreknowldge and draws all men, I wonder if thier is grammer involved paticularly in Timothy.

    thanks for your help
    Adam

  195. Ben,
    I’m not a Greek scholar, so all I can do is refer to the Greek grammar helps I own and can find online. Every grammar I referred to said the Perfect was completed past action with continuing results to the present, not continuing action to the present. If that is incorrect, then I don’t know what to say. Sorry, that’s all I know. Blessings.
    Paul

  196. For one last clarification, the Perfect is used when Jesus said “It is finished”. I believe this refers to Lu 22:42, Jn 5:17, Heb 10:7, etc. Even though all the works, everything God willed Jesus to do here on earth, including His sacrifice, are done, the results – salvation, peace, the promises, the fruit of the Spirit, etc. are now with us today.

  197. Paul,

    I am not a Greek scholar either and I am in agreement with you and the Greek Grammars. I am just saying that completed action can be misunderstood in the same way as the pastor mistakenly seemed to take it. For example, if “believed” was in the perfect, it would mean that one began to believe and is still believing. So faith began in the past and is continuing. The act of faith was completed in one sense in the past, but the action of believing is continuing. So one can see how we could say that there is a sense in which that faith (act) is not yet completed. It was completed in the sense of having a start and that start representing all that faith entails (it wasn’t an incomplete faith), but it is not completed in the sense that once faith happens it is not ongoing, etc. Maybe I am just splitting hairs, but I am just trying to cover all the bases so that “completed action” isn’t taken too far or the wrong way, even though it is an accurate description.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  198. Okay, I see your point. Have a good day. I am grateful for your site.

  199. Adam,

    Thanks for stopping by. I intend to do a post on 2 Timothy 2:10, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Here is the short answer I gave to someone else not long ago:

    First, it is problematic for the Calvinist position since the elect are either already saved or certain to be saved in Calvinism. Yet Paul’s words indicate uncertainty. It is similar to when Peter warns his readers to make their election sure. I think the passage fits better with the corporate view. Paul is speaking about those who are in Christ by faith and are therefore “the elect” presently. But since election does not guarantee final salvation, since those who are in the elect body can still be broken off through unbelief (Rom. 11), Paul is speaking about his struggle to keep the elect in the faith until they reach final salvation. So Paul’s focus is on perseverance in faith and not on how one becomes elect or at what point one can be considered elect, though his words imply that election is based current faith in Christ and not on a secret eternal selection of certain sinners to eventually come to faith. Hope that helps.

    On the John passage, what specifically makes you think it supports the Calvinist (unconditional) understanding of election? The more specific you can be, the better I can answer. As far as passages in John in general that Calvinist typically use to support Calvinism, I wrote the following to someone else, which is just a sampling from some of my posts,

    The short answer is that those who come to the Son are those who learn from the Father. Those who learn from the Father will naturally recognize the Father in the Son and in His words and be drawn to Him. Only those who learn from/know the Father are given to the Son. Here is something I wrote in another post that might be helpful:

    “Not of God” [in John 8] simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims. Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45). As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45). None of these passages say anything about an unconditional eternal election being behind the description of these Jews as “not of God.” Such an idea is only read into these passages by Calvinists…. Second, as mentioned above, their inability to hear was not because God wasn’t working, but because they were resisting that working. Clearly, Jesus is still trying to reach them (8:27-31, 36, cf. John 5:44; 10:37, 38), which would be senseless if He viewed them as hopeless reprobates. This is especially evident in Christ’s statement to the same sort of resistant Jews in John 5 where Christ both declares their inability and yet tells them, “…not that I accept human testimony, but I mention it that you may be saved”, vs. 34. This is especially relevant to my point since the “testimony” Christ refers to is the prior testimony of John the Baptist. Christ then points them to other “testimonies” like His miracles, the Scriptures in general, and Moses, obviously implying that through the acceptance of these testimonies they may yet be enabled to “come to” Him and be “saved”, cf. vss. 39, 40.

    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.

    From: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/%e2%80%9csaved-by-grace%e2%80%9d-through-faith/

    Hope that helps.

  200. Adam,

    Here is a link to a post that deals with John 6:65 briefly. I think it will basically address your question, though that particular post was more concerned with the claim of eternal security in John 6:37ff.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/does-jesus-teach-unconditional-eternal-security-in-john-637-65/

  201. Adam,

    Here is another good one from Daniel Whedon’s commentary:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/daniel-whedon-on-john-6/

  202. Paul and Ben
    Thanks for your responses.

    Ken

  203. Hey, Ken. You’re welcome. Hope I was able to help you. Have a blessed day, brother.

  204. Hey Kangaroodort,

    I read somewhere in a comment that Esau went to hell and it made me think back to Romans 9 “I loved Jacob but hated Esau” did Esau really go to hell? That was just a little question i had but the bigger question i have is that many people can walk away from being saved because it gets to hard but i cant think of any believer who would walk away cause they intentionally rebel against the Lord. How could someone who loved god, hate him?????? and the same thing with i know that sin hardens are heart a lot but think about this, all of us were dead in sin and some of us living in it solely, but God was still able to get through to us. Now if someone walked away what would stop God from getting through to them again?? I know people walk away and come back, sometimes cause it was too hard, sometimes cause persecution, and sometimes because they feed their sinful desires but what would prevent them from coming back???? and how would anyone walk away cause they Hate the lord after Loving him?

    Thanks

    Hutton

  205. Hutton,

    I hope to get to this later this week. Thanks for stopping by and God bless!

  206. Thanks i have a little more to add here! Why would any true believer want to live in sin?? If they were loving God wouldn’t they not want the sin? I mean if we get saved because we love God how could anyone continue in sin unless they weren’t truly saved! I feel also that it could be so that the state of complete apostasy could take someone’s whole life to happen cause many live their whole life in a stage like that! Do you feel this is True?

    So here are my main questions restated and hopefully clearer!

    1.I guess i am saying if some one got saved because God revealed to them their sin and they chose to accept Christ, once they were saved what would make them not listen to the Holy Spirt confronting them as they sinned!! Because if they ignored The Holy Spirit at the time they were already saved, you would think they would definitely ignore it when they were dead in sin before they were saved and God was calling them??

    2. Do you feel walking away cause of temptation or walking away because of persecution or getting caught up in worldly pleasures or denying the gospel a number of time are all the types of falling away and denying that can or cannot be restored??

    I just dont understand cause there are people who are satanist who get saved and people who live in sin every moment of every day that get saved and their are people im sure who walk away from the faith and arent proud of it, it was just to hard! and people who completely walk away from faith and im sure dont even call themselfs Christians who come back!

    Please just explain this the best you can!!! Its just really troubling me and my mind makes God the bad guy! I just want to love God with all my heart and see what’s so Great about him!

    Thanks

    Hutton

  207. Hey its me again I know i am elect in christ but does that mean this all is not a personal thing!!! Like am i insignificant to God or did he die on the cross thinking of me? Loving me or im just an insignificant being to him? Also did he die thinking of the people who would choose him or did he just for no one in particular and just kinda died? i feel its gotta be more special than im just going to die for everyone but not really think about who ever will come!?

  208. Not sure if this is the right spot to ask, but I was wondering if you could recommend some solid Arminian commentaries. If possible, how about a brief, couple book set and a larger exhaustive set. Thanks!!

  209. Arminian commentaries? I think Adam Clarke’s and John Wesley’s comments are very valuable and in public domain also.

    The Evagelical Arminians has many good links, and a Biblical commentary from Joseph Benson:
    http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=node/94

  210. Hebrews 6 speaks of denying Christ after partaking in Him and there being no chance for repentence. Why then was Peter restored after denying Christ 3 times publically but Judas was not? It says in the Bible that Judas was a partaker in the ministry of Christ but we can he chose to serve money. Did he not believe Jesus was the messiah?

  211. I remember having heard the gospel from a very young age and I remember praying at 6 years old “God I dont know if I believe in you, I want to believe in you, help me believe in you” and Im not sure the point it happened but whn I was 10 I went to a VBS and prayed the sinners prayer. My whole childhood I was drawn to church but never got to go much. Growing up I was a bad kid that would lie steal cheat.sex.drugs rock N roll u name it but when I was 22 I decided to go bak to church.and thy layed hands and prayed for me and my God givn gift.to the church and sense.thn my life has been different, people say they see the light in me now I got baptised , study the Bible etc. at what point would you say my regeneration was?

  212. How does this verse relate as it seems ti say the ones in Christ.will not be “all” but just.Abrahams offslring? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” ~ Galatians 3:28-2

  213. Ashley, i struggled with the same thing for many years, and my struggle started after i had been a Christian for a while, and someone introduced me to Hebrews 6. I had been “churched” and dragged from church to church, and even spent time in a cult, and I had also said “the sinner’s prayer” several times as a child and young man. I was scared that I might have been saved and then just accidentally slipped away, but this fear is not consistent with the teachings of the book of Hebrews or with Peter’s writings about apostates. In Hebrews 6, we see that it is not a person who said a prayer in Sunday school who could not repent (change their mind) again, it was a person who was absolutely and undoubtedly saved and had experienced the power of God in their lives. Such a person would have to make a conscious and willful decision to depart from Christ, and could not just ignorantly drift from God and the power of His spirit. There is no evidence in the Bible that people are saved by saying a prayer, they are saved by repenting of their sin(s) and placing full and sole trust in Jesus as resurrected savior. When Hebrews says an apostate can’t repent, it doesn’t mean they are not allowed to repent, it means they can not be brought back to their original state of repentance, and we know that only God’s spirit can bring us to repentance, so the reason they can not be brought back to repentance is because they have sinned against the Holy Spirit and have therefore no more conviction of sins and they will be burned in hell. If you want to be saved and you love Jesus, you can not possibly be apostate.

  214. Hutton,

    Sorry for the delay. You wrote,

    I read somewhere in a comment that Esau went to hell and it made me think back to Romans 9 “I loved Jacob but hated Esau” did Esau really go to hell?

    The Bible doesn’t really say, but Esau is held up as an example of wickedness in Scripture in that he sold his birthright, considering it worthless. That serves as a type for those who walk away from Christ in Hebrews. They forfeit their birthright in Christ for the temporal pleasures of sin, etc.

    That was just a little question i had but the bigger question i have is that many people can walk away from being saved because it gets to hard but i cant think of any believer who would walk away cause they intentionally rebel against the Lord. How could someone who loved god, hate him??????

    I think it is most often a gradual thing. That is why Scripture is always warning us of the dangers that can lead to apostasy. However, traumatic events could have such an impact on a believer that he or she might rather quickly turn from Christ (a death of an unsaved loved one, a tragic death of a child, unanswered prayers, etc.).

    and the same thing with i know that sin hardens are heart a lot but think about this, all of us were dead in sin and some of us living in it solely, but God was still able to get through to us. Now if someone walked away what would stop God from getting through to them again??

    It might. Some see that as what is being described to some extent in Hebrews 6 and 10. Even some of the earliest Christian writers took this view. If we reject all of God’s working in grace once we have fully received and experienced them, what more could God do to bring us back that He has not already done? We have already fully rejected Him after having fully experienced Him.

    I know people walk away and come back, sometimes cause it was too hard, sometimes cause persecution, and sometimes because they feed their sinful desires but what would prevent them from coming back????

    I think it depends on the degree of rejection in walking away. Only God knows the heart and if they can still be reached. However, I do believe their are some who put themselves beyond God’s reach (Heb. 6). Not all Arminians agree on this though.

    and how would anyone walk away cause they Hate the lord after Loving him?

    Even in our personal experiences we can see people move from love to hate. Again, this usually is quite gradual. Jesus said that the love of many would “grow cold”.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  215. Hutton,

    You wrote,

    Hey its me again I know i am elect in christ but does that mean this all is not a personal thing!!! Like am i insignificant to God or did he die on the cross thinking of me?

    Yes, God loves you personally and knows you personally. Corporate election does not discount individuals. It only puts the corporate body first in that we become part of the elect people when we are joined to that people through faith in the corporate Head-Christ. But God knows and loves all who come to be joined to Christ and His elect body.

    Loving me or im just an insignificant being to him?

    You are very significant.

    Also did he die thinking of the people who would choose him or did he just for no one in particular and just kinda died?

    He died to make it possible for all to come to Him and be saved, even those who will forever reject Him. He did this because He loves all people. God knows all and loves all and sent Christ to die for all.

    i feel its gotta be more special than im just going to die for everyone but not really think about who ever will come!?

    It is hard to say what Christ might have been thinking on the cross. Did He have thoughts of each individual person who would ever live while suffering on the cross? That seems a little unlikely to me, but maybe. Still, that doesn’t mean He wasn’t dying out of love for everyone as individuals, and that His love for you is not personal and very real.

  216. Ashley,

    Regeneration is the result of faith. God regenerates us in response to faith. So the answer is when you believed, put your trust in Him, whenever that was in the process.

    You may have been regenerated at a young age, but could not grow spiritually because of a lack of discipleship. During your time of rebellion, you may have died again spiritually and were reborn again when you put your trust in Christ at that church. Now, thankfully, you can grow.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  217. Ashley,

    How does this verse relate as it seems ti say the ones in Christ.will not be “all” but just.Abrahams offslring? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” ~ Galatians 3:28-2

    The “all” means both Jews and Gentile believers, or believers in general. When Paul speaks of Abraham’s offspring, he is speaking of all who receive the promise by faith (believers), whether Jew or Gentile. Abraham’s offspring are believers. He is speaking of his spiritual offspring, and not ethnic offspring. If you read the context carefully, that should come out rather clearly.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  218. Hello- I was reading a devotional (written by Dennis Kinlaw, founder of the Francis Asbury Society) He said that God’s desires cannot be bought and that God will never compel us to be part of his team. I am wondering how he can say that in light of verses such as Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:20 & 7:23, and Revelations 5:9 & 14:4, which all speak of the fact that God purchased or bought His church/his people. As far as never compeling us – isn’t that what is meant by his drawing us in John 6:44? I know some people say that He “woos” us – but the original greek uses the same word as drawing water from a well – one does not woo water from a well – one actually decisively pulls/takes it out. Can you comment on this? Thank you.

  219. Sally,

    On drawing, I am afraid you are mistaken, though that is a common Calvinist claim. John 12:32 alone really creates problems for that view (and the Calvinist claim that Jesus really means He will draw “some” among “all” is baseless). Below is part fo a post I wrote responding to a similar question. The link to the post is at the end, if you want to read the whole thing.

    Surely, you understand the difference between using a word [like “draw”] 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)

    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).

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/%e2%80%9csaved-by-grace%e2%80%9d-through-faith/

    And here is another post that addresses the Calvinist claim based on Greek language:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/does-john-644-teach-irresistible-grace/

    As for the other passages, I will need to look them up and get back to you when I get the chance, but when you understand the provisional nature of the atonement, passages about being bought are not a problem at all. Here are a few posts that address the provisional nature of the atonement:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/provisional-atonement-part-1-dealing-with-john-owens-arminian-dilemma/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/provisional-atonement-part-2-provision-is-consistent-with-foreknowledge/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/provisional-atonement-part-3-the-integrity-and-justice-of-god-in-the-gospel-offer/

    And here is a lighthearted look at where this Calvinist argument can lead if followed through to its logical conclusion:

    http://seekadoo.blogspot.com/2008/08/atonement-for-paul.html

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  220. Hello, Ben!

    I have a question about the expression “from the foundation of the world” and “before the foundation of the world.” What are the possible meanings of it in the Bible? It is used in Ephesians and in a passage from Luke 11, and also Revelation (Book of Lamb).

    Many thanks in advance!

  221. Hi,
    I have done some study and lean towards Calvinism but recently realized I never gave Arminianism enough thought so I’ve been reading your website, which has been helpful. Thanks.
    I have a question about prevenient grace – who does God give this grace to: is it equally given to all people, or just some? And if so, how does God determine who receives it?
    Thank you.
    – Lance

  222. Lance,

    I think God’s enabling grace works in different ways in accordance with different situations. The Bible isn’t clear on the exact mechanics. It doesn’t break down to a simplified equation. I do believe that God graciously works in all people to bring them to faith in Christ. However, even for those who may not get the opportunity to hear the gospel, God will hold them accountable for how they responded to the grace they did receive. Still, I suspect that as people respond favorably to God’s gracious working, God will eventually lead them to a place where they can hear and accept the gospel. The actual specific enabling to believe the gospel would be specific to the time of hearing the gospel where the power of the word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit would make it possible for a depraved sinner to believe unto salvation.

    Near the beginning of this thread are some questions about prevenient grace along with some answers from me that you may find helpful. That discussion starts here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/questions/#comment-1575

    May God bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth.

  223. Ben, can you recommend some study/article/book about the uses that the New Testament inspired writers make from the Old Testament?

    I am curious about it because a Calvinist have used the argument Esau&Jacob are individuals, because Matthew 2:15 cites Hosea 11:1, and Hosea is about a nation but Matthew is about an individual.

  224. Hi Ben,

    Sadly, our fellowship has of late been under the pump from a number of vocal and rather aggressive young reformed folks.  I was hoping you might be able to perhaps offer some counsel and help.

    My main query is simply:  How does one respond to these young Calvinist who claims predestination and election (as interpreted through the lens of TULIP)  are central to the gospel?

    Please don’t get me wrong, I love their passion for Jesus, along with their enthusiasm for careful theological thought.  It’s their insistence on making their Calvinist position THE Biblical point of view and central to the Gospel which griefs me and compels me to try and respond in a gracious fashion.

    Am I missing something?  Does the doctrines of grace as expressed by TULIP really define the Gospel?  To be honest I do not see why it cannot be a secondary doctrinal issue much akin to credo versus paedobaptism given we affirm so many central truths.

    Glad I found your site …looking forward to reading the blog entires. 

    Ralph

  225. credulo,

    Anything by Brian Abasciano. He has articles at SEA dealing with corporate election that really get to the heart of the matter (I will paste them in below). His dissertation on the use of the OT in Romans 9:1-9 is available at the site as well.

    Jacob and Esau are individuals in Romans, but they are spoken of as corporate representatives. So even though the passage is speaking about real people, it is speaking of them in the corporate sense, focusing on the people they represent as is clear from the reference to the prophecy in Romans 9:11, 12. In that prophecy, Jacob and Esau were referred to as peoples and nations (Genesis 25:23). Even in Romans, Paul quotes the part about the older serving the younger. That makes it clear that Paul is speaking corporately of these individuals, since Esau the individual never served Jacob.

    As for Matthew, “son” is used as a reference to the people of Israel in the original text. It is being applied to Christ as a corporate entity, the true Israel, and in Him (his body) are the people of God. So it is really the same as in Romans. Matthew is speaking of Christ, but Christ is representative of His people, which is why this reference to Israel can properly apply to Him.

    Here is a link to a post on Corporate Election with many links (including Brian’s stuff) at the bottom: http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination

    Hope that helps.

  226. Ralph,

    I am sad to hear what is happening to your church. It is especially troubling when Calvinists try to make Calvinism the gospel. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Charles Spurgeon said that Calvinism was just a “nickname” for the gospel. Obviously, Calvinists believe that Calvinism is the fullest expression of the gospel, just as I believe that Arminianism is the fullest expression of the gospel. But as you point out, whether or not election is conditional or unconditional is a side issue. Calvinism and Arminianism are more concerned about the nuts and bolts of salvation, how salvation works.

    The main issue should be that both camps agree that it is by grace through faith in Christ that anyone is saved. Calvinist say this happens irresistibly and unconditionally (even faith, the “condition for salvation” is given unconditionally to the elect), while Arminains say this happens resistibly and conditionally (God works faith in us in a resistible manner, and salvation is truly condition on our free response to gracious working, etc.).

    When Calvinists make such claims they are implying that one cannot be saved if they are not a Calvinist. That is a mark of hyper-Calvinism. The reformed solas say it is through grace, faith, and Christ alone that we are saved. So when Calvinists call Calvinism the gospel, they are adding to the solas of their own movement.

    I would remind such Calvinists that many wonderful Christians throughout the ages were not Calvinists. Nobody prior to Calvin was a Calvinist in the fullest sense expressed today (while Augustine held to much of what would later be called Calvinism, he did not hold to inevitable perseverance of the regenerate, a teaching that cannot be found prior to Calvin in the church- though it can be found among the gnostic sects).

    So in making such claims they are saying that all the ante-nicene believers, great men like John Wesley and other Wesleyan preachers, nearly all Pentecostals, nearly all holiness movements (Nazarenes, Methodists), many great Baptists, and so many more either did not know the gospel, or, depending on how far they take it, were not even saved. That is outlandish (and arrogant) to say the least.

    If you explore my site and look at the articles and posts available at SEA (the Society of Evangelical Arminians, http://evangelicalarminians.org/), you will find much to help you combat this claim.

    May God Bless you and give you the grace to rightly respond to such claims in love. Here are a few posts here to get you started (part of a series I have yet to finish). The link will take you to 4 posts. Just click on them to read them in full.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/the-five-dilemmas-of-calvinism/

    Ben

  227. Unfortunately, this type of problem, i.e. placing tradition or church interpretation above on the same level with the plain gospel is not uncommon, and in fact is more likely than otherwise. I am told I am not saved if I do not call God three persons, or get baptized by such and such a preacher, or speak in tongues, none of which the Bible says I have to do to be saved. Calvinism is a spiritual sickness, because it lays aside not only man’s free will, but God’s love and it makes God out to the both the author of sin, and a being that delights in the eternal destruction of His children. Calvinists, as many others caught up in tradition are very circular in their thinking, and it’s really best to just step back, tell them you love them and that you will be praying for them. Arguing only strengthens their resolve.

  228. Ben,

    Hi i have 2 questions?

    First of all i have heard claims and even thought myself that the calvinist God seems more personal with his people.

    Here are my two questions.

    Did God just die for sin or our sin? Did he die for us as a whole or for everyone individually? I would like to think of it as the second. I have heard that Calvinists believe it was a personal death for them and arminians don’t think that cause they believe he died for all, but was it a personal death for me and for everyone or just for man kind as a whole?

    Secondly

    It seems that Gods special love is only for his people. This troubled me cause im like does he only love me like this once i come to him? What type of love did he love me with before i was saved! was it amazing crazy amount and whats the difference now (type of love)? Also how could God say i have loved you with an everlasting love if it hasn’t been forever? This article thing below seems to argue it has always been but i didn’t understand it. I just want to know Jesus death was personal and out of an insane amount of love for me.

    A third argument for the limited atonement is the argument from the special love of God. It is stated that God had a peculiar love to His people, to His church, to the elect, and that this love prompted Him to send Christ. This love is compared in Scripture to the love of a husband for his wife, which is exclusive. To this peculiar and infinite love, the gift of Christ is uniformly referred (I John 4:10, 3:16; Rom. 5:8; John 15:13; Rom. 8:35-39; 5:1-11).

    Thanks

  229. Also i have read your article on assurance.

    It seems i can’t gain grounds for assurance cause of Hebrews 10 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God

    I feel i dibelatry sin all the time, we all do. How long does this Grace last around me? Or is it just talking about people saying they are saved but are fully living in sin? How secure and safe is my salvation cause it seems everytime i sin i feel i have lost it and i dont feel secure cause i don’t know how many deliberate sins it would take to lose it?

    Help please

    Hutton

  230. Ben,

    I first experienced the conviction (of what I believe was the Holy Spirit) at nine and asked the Lord to come into my heart, and was baptized. I never grew in faith or wisdom or righteousness, and when I was fifteen, after reading strange philosophy, I prayed/thought to myself something of the nature that “I willingly reject Christ/Christianity, not salvation” or something like that. I’m not even sure if I included the last two words or not. I was immediately sorry and prayed to the Lord to forgive me, knowing that I didn’t really want that, and was deeply grieved. I thought about it a lot, prayed about it a lot, and could not stop sinning as I got older, falling into extremes of sexual immorality, cursing, etc.

    I still believed I was saved, but lacked assurance and questioned a great deal. In college, I got in with a group of Christian guys and debated theology. I was Arminian, some were Calvinist, and we all had a good time debating, but I became convinced that a genuine believer could not have been living the way I had (came to Lordship). Eventually, I realized I hated a Christian brother, and that I could not possibly have been saved. A deep fear fell on me, I was convinced I was going to Hell (well deservedly), and for days (literally) I confessed and begged the Lord to save me. Just before I offed myself (5 minutes or so before), it seemed to me that He had heard me and done so.

    There has been a definite change of lifestyle (I wanted to stop those sins before but couldn’t – It’s been relatively easy to let go of them since), but I am still worried by a few things: 1) my apparent, willing apostasy at 15 (Hebrews 6, Heb. 10:26-27), 2) the fact I sometimes wrestle with assurance, which – when I’m losing the battle – makes me fearful (1 John 4:18) 3) Matthew 7:22 (see point 2). 4) I don’t love as much as I want to (sends me back to 2). Did I commit unpardonable apostasy and am deluding myself now to think Christ will save me? If I am sometimes exceeding fearful that my faith is not saving faith (not that Christ is not Who and What He claimed, but essentially, after walking in darkness so long, I do not trust my heart – particularly given Matt 7:22), does that imply that it is not? I truly desire nothing more than to spend eternity worshiping Christ and to walk in perfect obedience (not possible, but desired) here, but I am perplexed by my peculiar situation and am almost afraid of accepting assurance because of the way I was before, both assured and wicked. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Sorry about the post length. Christ Bless and Keep You.

  231. Thanks Ben for your thoughtful response. Apologies for this belated response. I have been crook in bed 😦

    The links to further resources have been most helpful!

    Ralph

  232. BEN HEY ITS ME AGIAN. PLEASE HELP. THIS WEBSITE JESUS-IS-SAVIOR.COM IS SAYING SOME KINDA CRAZY THINGS MY CONSCIENCE QUESTIONS. THEY ARE SAYING CALVINISTS ARE CONDEMNED, ARMINIANS ARE PROBABLY CONDEMN BECAUSE OF THEIR WORKS BASED RELIGION. IS THIS SITE WAY OFF. PLEASE HELP QUICK

    HUTTON

  233. Hutton,

    There are a lot of cooky sites out there who will tell you everyone is condemned (accept for them, or course). Don’t waste you time there. Are you trusting in Christ to save you? If so, you are not condemned for “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Maybe you need to just focus on reading the Word and take a break from the internet for a while.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  234. Ben,

    You wrote,

    There has been a definite change of lifestyle (I wanted to stop those sins before but couldn’t – It’s been relatively easy to let go of them since), but I am still worried by a few things: 1) my apparent, willing apostasy at 15 (Hebrews 6, Heb. 10:26-27)

    I don’t think the apostasy you committed is consistent with that being described in those passages. For further discussion, please take a look at the following posts:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-6-hebrews-1026-30/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-11-can-apostates-be-restored/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/does-scripture-describe-two-types-of-apostasy/

    Let me know if you still have questions. You can leave those questions here or in the comboxes of those threads.

    , 2) the fact I sometimes wrestle with assurance, which – when I’m losing the battle – makes me fearful (1 John 4:18) 3) Matthew 7:22 (see point 2). 4) I don’t love as much as I want to (sends me back to 2). Did I commit unpardonable apostasy and am deluding myself now to think Christ will save me?

    Not at all. Jesus said He would not cast out those who come to Him (John 6). If you had committed apostasy as described in Hebrews 6 and 10, you would have no desire to return to Christ (see posts linked to above).

    If I am sometimes exceeding fearful that my faith is not saving faith (not that Christ is not Who and What He claimed, but essentially, after walking in darkness so long, I do not trust my heart – particularly given Matt 7:22), does that imply that it is not?

    If you are trusting in Christ to save you and are not pleased with your sin, then you gave solid grounds for assurance. Christians struggle against sin and often lose, but that is different from apostasy, which gives up the battle and has no desire to stop sinning or maintain a relationship with Christ.

    I truly desire nothing more than to spend eternity worshiping Christ and to walk in perfect obedience (not possible, but desired) here, but I am perplexed by my peculiar situation and am almost afraid of accepting assurance because of the way I was before, both assured and wicked. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Sorry about the post length. Christ Bless and Keep You.

    Your desire to walk in obedience and the contrast you present (before, compared to now) should help you see that you have solid grounds for assurance.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  235. Hutton,

    You wrote,

    Also i have read your article on assurance.

    It seems i can’t gain grounds for assurance cause of Hebrews 10 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God

    I feel i dibelatry sin all the time, we all do. How long does this Grace last around me? Or is it just talking about people saying they are saved but are fully living in sin? How secure and safe is my salvation cause it seems everytime i sin i feel i have lost it and i dont feel secure cause i don’t know how many deliberate sins it would take to lose it?

    I believe you are misunderstanding the nature of the deliberate sin(ning) being described in Hebrews 10. Take a look at the posts I referred Ben to in the post above and see if they help. If you still have questions, let me know.

  236. Hutton, first, I don’t believe anyone deserves to go to hell. It’s not about deserving it, it’s about satisfying God’s wrath on sin. So, with that in mind, one thing I think you are doing, and it’s something I have done, is to place most or all of the responsibility and burden f being saved and remaining saved on YOU, and nowhere near enough on Jesus, or credit to Him for His sovereignty and great love and desire for you to be saved. A person is not a robot; we don’t just program facts and figures, and salvation into us. Salvation is a lifetime commitment and a choice,and while it can and does create feelings of sureness, warmth, love and boldness, we are still people and sometimes we feel bad or negative emotions. hatred as an emotion is sometimes unavoidable, but as long as we make a conscious effort to forgive, the mere feeling of hatred will not do any damage to our relationship. Where we go wrong as sinners is when we hold onto that anger and it becomes resentment, and eventually we are hard pressed to be able to love the person, even in a godly sense. Hard hearts will reject the Lord, soft ones will listen to His instructions, and receive His chastisements. Look at David, he had a great relationship with The Lord, and he murdered, lied and betrayed, yet it was his attitude before The Lord, and attitude of humility and contriteness that allowed his relationship to be fully restored. The Lord wants you to be saved, He died for that very reason, so don’t sit around thinking about how many mistakes you have made as a Christian, sufficient for this day is the evil thereof, do’t focus on the past, or worry about the future. God knows what he is doing, He is no ameture, so just continue to trust in Jesus, and the feelings of warmth and peace will eventually return.

  237. Hello! Thank you very much for your web site. I have a question conserning revelation 17:8, especialy about this part of the verse: And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel…  Most commentaries make it to be a predestinarian verse. They say that “from the foundation of the world” means “before the foudation of the world”. But I don’t understand why they make this decision. In greek preposition is απο – form, not προ – before. Maybe the reason is γεγραπται wich is in perfect tense? Meaning that since the foundation of the world those names are in the written state, which sends the action of the writing to the time before the foudation. But we have similar constraction in Luke 11:50: so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation… Shed (ἐκκεχυμένον, wich is also perfect, but participle) from founfation (απο καταβολης) of the world (κοσμου). We wouldn’t say, that blood of the prophets was shed before the foundation! But it seems that this verse is talking about all those prophets who were killed in the process of history. So why can’t we use the same logic in case with book of life? That those names were written in the process of history? Help me out please! Sorry for my english. I’m from Ukraine. 

  238. I’m looking for some information on how to deal with the limited atonement argument that if Jesus paid the penalty for all, then people sent to hell would being paying the penalty a second time. I found a couple comments by Ryrie on your site, but wondered if you could expound.

  239. Gary:
    This is a very weak argument in my opinion. This is essentially the same argument as the Owen Trilemma – see the Provisional Atonement series. I even have named the argument: Intrinsically Effectual Atonement (or Irresistible Atonement).

    This is my explanation; the Ben’s one on the series above is very better articulated.

    The Gomarist (5-point Calvinist) argument can be summarized like this:

    P1 – If Jesus has paid the sins of some person (say, Mr. X) on your death on the cross, then God can’t charge Mr. X again in the hell. (The premise of 5-point calvinist)
    P2 – Only the elect are saved. (No contention here…)
    C – So, Jesus has paid only the elect’s sins

    Well, the argument is logically valid, so we need to test the truth of premises. And we can do it with a very simple approach: the sin of incredulity.

    P3 – Incredulity is a sin (well, the Bible says (1John 2:10-13) an unbeliever makes God a liar).
    P4 – Jesus has paid the sin of incredulity of elect people.
    In fact, if not, then the elect will not be saved, contradicting P2.
    C2 – So, God can’t charge the incredulity of elect people – it contradicts C above.

    But C2 contradicts the ‘children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3).

    I think it can help.

  240. Gary,

    Free will Baptist F.Leroy Forlines treats this topic very well in his book The Quest for Truth. You can get an edited version of the book that contains only the subject matter on the Arminian and Calvinist debate called Classical Arminianism, edited by Matthew Pinson.

    The basic idea is that the benefits of the atonement are only ours when we are joined to Christ. Until that time, they are only provisional in Him. Until we are joined to Christ in faith there is no payment credited to our account. Only when we are joined to Him is payment for sin credited to our account. Therefore, there is no double payment. The payment of atonement is provisional and conditional. It is not automatic or unconditional. It is only through identification with Christ that His death becomes our death and His payment becomes ours. It is the difference between provision and application. As credula pointed out, my series on provisional atonement should help as well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  241. Vladimir,

    Your interpretation is certainly a valid one. There may be other ways to interpret the passage as well, but no need to read unconditional election into it. It just isn’t there.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  242. Hi, I read you post about Romans 9:16 but what about the following passages? Paul states what someone may question… Then gives the example of them being a pot destined and appointed for destruction. Then it states the prophecy of Isaiah that says God did not love everyone but later decided to love Gentiles too.

  243. I meant to say Hosea

  244. Hello, Ben! I have some doubts about the ‘commercial analogy’ on the Bible. In some verses Paul and the Apostles trait the Atonement as a commercial relationship – and arguments about the ‘double jeopardy’ gain some force.

    What Paul means to say about the ‘ handwriting of ordinances that was against us’ – Colossians 2:14 King James?

  245. Ashley,

    We have several posts here that I think will help you with your questions. Here are a few of them:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/an-apparently-not-so-brief-response-to-c-michael-patton-on-rom-9/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/romans-9-in-context/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/where-calvinism-gets-romans-9-wrong-who-do-jacob-and-esau-represent/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/where-calvinism-gets-romans-9-wrong-prerogative-equals-unconditionality/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/where-calvinism-gets-romans-9-wrong-proof-texting-from-a-translation-choice/

    I personally hold to the corporate election view and see that view being expressed nicely in Romans 9-11 (as you will see in the first link above, the rest of the links go to posts that were written by the other author at this site, JCT). Once you understand the corporate view, Romans 9 makes a lot more sense and avoids the serious difficulties one encounters in the Calvinist view when reading Romans 9-11 as a unit. Here is a link to several resources on the corporate view (especially see the links at the bottom of the short summary):

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination

    If you still have questions, let me know.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  246. credulo,

    I am having a hard time following your question. Could you be a little more specific?

  247. Trying to write it again:

    A very common Calvinist argument is to use some Scriptural references about Atonement, mainly using terms like “bought by the blood”. A very common verse is Colossians 2:14:

    Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross

    In Portuguese translations, it is sometimes related to ‘payment of a sin-debt’. So, the Calvinist says ‘If Jesus has paid the debt of sin in the cross, why someone will pay it again on Hell?’

    My problem is with the analogy Paul uses – or, more specifically, with the ‘Pushing very far’ made by Calvinists on the payment analogy. How I can explain this verse(s), in the provisional view of atonement, and how I can argument against the ‘commercial theory’ of Calvinists?

  248. credulo,

    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to get to this till sometime next week.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  249. Hello. My name’s Joseph. http://www.Biblecia.com. I believe, as you do, that the Reformed/Arminian debate is an in-house debate. My question is not meant to be the end all be all “spade card” against the Arminian approach to interpretation. It’s just one that to me seems more meaty in a blog setting because it’s a broad stroke approach to many of the questions whose particulars are often already so entrenched on each side of discussion. First a definition of a Biblical miracle: “Something God does completely inexplicable by any natural means.” I’m sure we’d agree that many use the word “miracle” today far too haphazardly. A resurrection is a miracle; the birth of baby is not. A person’s shadow healing a sick person in another city is a miracle; someone receiving a settlement check “just in time” is not, etc. I, of a Reformed persuasion, would Biblically catalog salvation as a bona fide miracle. I want to acknowledge the miracle working of God in all I do. The Arminian approach to regeneration is completely explainable by natural means. God rose again, we believe that fact…done. No miracles needed between God and us! We may call God’s love a miracle, all of the works that made our salvation possible a miracle, or something like that, but there’s nothing miraculous about our salvation if it is in response to anything naturally capable in men from the start.

    My Biblical reasoning for calling the born again experience a miracle has many many scriptural points. As this is a broad stroke, I will not list them. I will, however, say that in the Bible the salvation of individuals is likened to three things: 1) a new birth, 2) a new creation, and 3) a resurrection. This is not coincidental; they’re all miracles. A natural birth is not a miracle; a supernatural one is. Creations and resurrections are miracles. Again, this is a broad stroke approach to a fact of regeneration that I find clearly maintained under every bush of the argument in which I find myself. When I focus on the cause rather than the outworking of salvation it becomes a perfect synthesis in Scripture. I used to be an Arminian (even before I knew what one was), but I was changed. My now stacked question is: “Do you call salvation (the new birth, regeneration) a miracle?”

    Thanks for your time!

    Joseph P.

  250. credulo,

    Sorry this has taken so long. I hope to get to this Wednesday, or this weekend at the latest. Thanks for being patient.

  251. No problems, Kangaroodort!
    I am also a bit busy these days.

    Also, I have a more philosophical question. Generally, Calvinists claim that ‘Moral duties don’t imply ability’ or ‘Responsibility don’t imply freedom’. They generally cites verses like ‘God commands us to be holy like Him, a very clear impossibility’ and another things.

    So, two questions: how I can show the of ‘Moral duty implies freedom and ability’ (with the Holy Spirit’s grace, of course); and some material about it (the Whedon’s book against Edwards is a good choice?).

    Many thanks!

  252. A very common Calvinist argument is to use some Scriptural references about Atonement, mainly using terms like “bought by the blood”. A very common verse is Colossians 2:14:

    Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross

    I don’t see any problem with this passage with regards to the provisional atonement view. The wrath of God against all sin was satisfied in Christ, but only in Christ. That wrath is satisfied in us only when we are joined to Christ in faith. Redemption is “in Christ.” Not only that, but if we were truly “Bought by the blood” at the cross, then we were forgiven “at the cross”, even before we were born. That gets back to the problem of eternal justification, where this Calvinist argument cannot help but to lead.

    In Portuguese translations, it is sometimes related to ‘payment of a sin-debt’. So, the Calvinist says ‘If Jesus has paid the debt of sin in the cross, why someone will pay it again on Hell?’

    Because it is provisional. Numerous passages make this point. Calvinists wrongly assume application is automatic in such passages. Even in Matthew 18:23-35 we can see that a debt that was forgiven can be credited back to the account of the one forgiven if the one who forgives the debt chooses to credit it back again (in this case, it is the Father crediting back our sin debt when we refuse to forgive others their debts against us). So I think the argument really breaks down at that point.

    The fundamental basis of the atonement is in how God wants the atonement to work. If God wants it to work provisionally for all with the application of the atonement only for those who believe, He can do that. That is His sovereign right. That is also how it is portrayed in Scripture.

    Often Paul will speak of the results of the atonement as if they are already applied, but the context makes it clear that the application is still a contingency and not automatic. One example is in 1 Cor. 5:17-21,

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

    Notice fist that being a new creation is only “in Christ.” No one is made new outside of Christ. Christ is the provision of life for all, but we only enjoy that life through faith union with Him.

    Second, Paul speaks of us being reconciled through or in Christ. Again, the sphere of reconciliation is in Christ alone. Third, Paul speaks of the world being reconciled to God through Christ (even to the point of our sins not being counted against us). That doesn’t necessarily sound provisional, but it must be or the entire world would be forgiven and reconciled to God at the cross. Rather, it is plainly provisional as Paul continues with an appeal, “Be reconciled to God.” So even though God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, that reconciliation is not complete until we respond. We also need to be reconciled. Therefore, God’s reconciliation through Christ of the world is provisional and is only applied to us when we respond in faith and are ourselves “reconciled” to God. Paul is saying that God provided reconciliation in Christ for the world and then calls on us to take advantage of that provision by embracing that provision and being fully reconciled with God.

    My problem is with the analogy Paul uses – or, more specifically, with the ‘Pushing very far’ made by Calvinists on the payment analogy. How I can explain this verse(s), in the provisional view of atonement, and how I can argument against the ‘commercial theory’ of Calvinists?

    Hopefully, what I wrote here will help.

    You might benefit from reading Forlines on this. Also, Richard Taylor has a good book addressing this issue called “God’s Integrity and the Cross.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Integrity-Cross-Richard-Taylor/product-reviews/0916035816

    Another resource that might be helpful is I. Howard Marshall’s work: http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/222

    God Bless,

    Ben

    I will get back to you on your further question, but Whedon is an excellent book on that topic.

  253. Joseph,

    Sorry, I just noticed and approved your post. There is a lot to respond to and I don’t have time at the moment. I think your argument is flawed and does not properly understand what Arminians believe. Salvation is certainly a miracle and so is regeneration. Arminians do not believe that we regenerate ourselves, so of course it is a miracle that only God can do. However, you beg the question in assuming that this miracle must come before faith or be unconditional in order for it to be a miracle. It is just as much a miracle if it is conditionally applied. Likewise, if I ask God to heal someone and He does, it is certainly a miracle, though it is conditioned on the prayer. I didn’t heal the person, God did. I have no power to heal anyone. But God responded to my prayer with a miracle. But even further, Arminians hold to prevenient grace which makes faith possible in depraved sinners. That is likewise a miracle.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  254. I am a Wesleyan-Arminian and tend to accept the corporate view of election. However, there is one thing I do struggle with in regards to that view and I wonder if anyone can help me here. As I understand it, the corporate view holds that the “old ship of zion” (the church) is unconditionally guaranteed to arrive at the Heavenly Port. But an individual’s salvation is conditional upon his faith response, as well as perseverance in that faith. My question is this: the corporate body is composed of individuals. How can a corporate body, composed of CONDITIONALLY elect individuals, itself be UNCONDITIONALLY elect? If every single member is conditionally elect, doesn’t that make the entire body conditionally elect also? In order for the church to be unconditionally elect to arrive at the Heavenly Port, would that mean that God must have unconditionally guaranteed that certain persons be saved to comprise this unconditionally elect group, lest the remote possibility happen that no one end up being saved and thus resulting in no church?

  255. Steve,

    You really need to read the following article. I think it will help. If you still have questions, let me know.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election

  256. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the time and effort you put into this site! I have a rather different question, but hopefully you can help.

    I’m trying to make up my mind between Calvinism and Arminianism. I respect as sincere attempts to understand the scriptures, although only one can be correct, or at least closer to the truth than the other. It’s an issue I plan to read about from both sides before settling on. I’m leaning towards Calvinism but open-minded.

    Surprisingly, the biggest barrier to me accepting Arminianism isn’t a particular section of scripture or question, but the inability to find good sermons/commentaries from that perspective. Here are some details.

    I’m teaching through Romans in a small group. I love doing it, and I’m doing enough research that my time in Romans constitutes much of the time I can spend studying at the moment, and likely will for the next year. I’ve got some great resources, but all seem to be written by Calvinists. I rely primarily on two commentaries by John Stott and Douglas Moo and two sermon series by John Piper and Martin Lloyd-Jones.

    Even if I were a decided Calvinist (and I’m not), I don’t like only reading out of only a single school of thought. I’d rather include alternate evangelical perspectives. What I’d REALLY love is to find a sermon series available on .mp3 that goes through Romans at something approaching the depth that Piper does. I’ve asked several friends/pastors, and no one can point me to anything. I’ve found some whole-bible series. Everything seems to approach Romans at a much more superficial level (10-30 sermons to cover the book – Piper took 225).

    I don’t need someone to match Piper in length so much as in clarity, intellect and depth. I’ve been consistently told (primarily by Calvinists) that such teaching simply doesn’t exist in the Arminian camp. If that is in fact the case, I’ll likely be a Calvinist soon. But I doubt it is. Can you point me to a solid sermon series by a pastor who could match wits with Piper? I don’t want a lot of illustrations, but rigorous exposition. I’m also not looking for a “Why Romans supports Arminianism” approach; simply an honest attempt to unpack the message of the book.

    (To ask my question, I realize I’ve subtly accused Arminians of having less solid teaching than Calvinists. I sincerely apologize – that is not my intent. I would understand if you would prefer to deal with this over email rather than on your website)

    Thank you and God bless,

    Paul

  257. Paul,

    There are a lot of good Arminian resources out there on Rom. 9. I am not sure, but I think there are some MP3’s as well. For me, the strongest view of Romans comes from the corporate election view. Dr. Brian Abasciano has written two books on Romans 9 and will eventually write a third. He takes on Piper and his interpretation throughout his books, especially the second (and in my opinion, soundly refutes him). He holds to the corporate election view and is probably the best advocate of the view out there. Unfortunately, his books are very expensive right now. You can find his dissertation free online at The Society of Evangelical Arminians, which is basically his first book, but with more material (his first book is an edited version of his dissertation). It is very extensive, but only covers Romans 9:1-9. The second book covers Romans 9:10-18, but that one you would have to buy.

    In the mean time, you should probably read his articles dealing with Rom. 9 and the corporate view of election. I think that would help quite a bit. Below are some good links (starting with his dissertation).

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Pauls-Use-of-the-Old-Testament-in-Romans-9.1-9-An-Intertextual-and-Theological-Exegesis

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Corporate-Election-in-Romans-9:A-Reply-to-Thomas-Schreiner

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/glynn.Dr.Brian-Abasciano-Responds-To-Dr.Dan-Wallace-On-The-Issue-Of-Corporate-Election

    Here is a page with many resources about the corporate view:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/corporate-election-resources/

    Here is an Amazon list of some good Arminian or non-Calvinist commentaries on Romans:

    http://www.amazon.com/Arminian-Commentaries-on-Romans/lm/R22GCU75BWUYF4/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full

    And here is a link to a page with many Arminian resources, including online commentaries:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=node/94

    And here are a few more to check out:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Election-Dennis-McCallum-Exegetes-Romans-9-on-youtube-%28Brennon-Hartshorn%29 (this one is a youtube series)

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=5n4EAAAAQAAJ&dq=Goodwin+%22ninth+chapter%22+Romans&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=g-kMyfTkaJ&sig=ExsA5HDwvOoeI6J9n5gDzFz5bU4&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPR6,M1

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Godet-Commentary-on-Romans

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/268

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/257

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/286

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Election-Free-Will-William-Lane-Craig-on-Romans-9

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Reprobation-Divine-Hardening-of-the-Human-Heart-Isaiah-6%3A10-and-63%3A17

    I have many more, but that should get you started. I will see what else I can find, as far as MP3s as well.

    I also highly recommend Forline’s book “The Quest for Truth”, or the newer edited version of the same book (which focuses specifically on Calvinism and Arminianism), “Classical Arminianism”. Forlines interacts quite a bit with Piper on Romans 9 in that book, from a more traditional Arminian perspective. Here is my review of the book: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/classical-arminianism-by-f-leroy-forlines-book-review/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  258. Paul,

    Do you know about the Society of Evangelical Arminians website (http://evangelicalarminians.org/)? Check out the video and audio file section of their links and books page: http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=node/94. There are various expository preaching resources there, though not a lot. Let me draw your attention to a few that might be worth checking out first:

    David Pawson is reputed to be an excellent expository preacher. Here is a link to his series on Romans: http://davidpawson.org/resources/category/new-testament-studies/romans/. Now he seems to have significantly longer sermons than Piper, though significantly less messages. I believe he has expository messages on every book in the Bible (or close to it) available online.

    Dennis McCallum is also reputed to be good. Here is his series on Romans: http://www.xenos.org/teachings/?series=110. There are also other series from Romans by other preachers fin his church available at the same website.

    I have heard good things about Tim Warner’s expository preaching, and he is currently preaching through Romans; the series can be found on his church’s home page: http://www.oasischristianchurch.org/index.html. He looks like he might be closer to Piper than the others in the number of messages on Romans, though nothing close to 200+ (but again, perhaps they are longer).

    The Meeting House church has 116 messages that have a Scripture tag from Romans, though I do not know if they are expository: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/search/?p=1&query=romans&show=50&refineby=scripture:Romans. They seem to have a couple expository series on Romans amounting to about 20 sermons: Part 1: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/ajax/series-info/1770 and Part 2: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/ajax/series-info/1765

    But you should check out the other resources in that section on SEA’s site.

    As for commentaries on Romans, Ben seems to have given you a link for that.

    God bless!

  259. Thank you very much for the prompt responses! Right now, my small group is starting Rom. 7, so we’ve got a few months before I have to think about CH. 9. But, those links will be very helpful then.

    I appreciate the sermon suggestions. I’ll download those and try to listen to some in the coming weeks!

    Grace and peace,

    Paul

  260. Paul,

    Don’t forget that link to a list of Arminian commentaries on Romans Ben gave you. I didn’t mention specific commentaries because he gave you that link. But now I’ll mention Witherington, Osborne, and Cottrell. Also, Godet’s commentary, which is older but highly respected, is available on the internet for free. You can find it at SEA’s site for example.

    Also, could you tell us how the sermons are after you listen to some?

    God bless!

  261. Noplace in scripture are we asked or demanded to make a choice between any man made doctrine, or man contrived doctrine. We are not told by God to choose between Arminianism or Calvinism, and we are not told that we have to define God or His eternal divine nature, like the Trinitarians and modalists say we do. The Bible doesn’t say “thou shalt read only King James 1611!” What we do all have to understand and agree upon, regardless of our pride and denominational views is that God loved the entire world so much, that He gave His only “born of a woman” son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That statement is the focal point for the entire Bible, and all doctrines, no matter how well researched they may be have to agree with that universally true and eternally true statement, or they are false. So, if you want to choose between Arminianism and Calvinism, choose based on that criteria. Arminianism, with all of its faults at least acknowledges that God loves all men and women, as well as children who have ever lived, live now, or will ever live and He desires them to be saved, and go to heaven when they die. If Calvinism agrees with that unalterable, immutable truth, then by all means, choose it if you desire. If it does not, it is a lie.

  262. Hi my two cents worth. 🙂
    Witherington’s The Problem with Evangelical Theology (Baylor, 2005) also has a very good discussion of election and Romans 9 in chapter 4 of the book.
    Cheers,
    Ralph

  263. Matt,

    I understand that you are trying to help, but your comments are not really related to his specific question. They address his comments about a personal investigation between two views, and come across (to me) as a bit of an attack. This thread is for people to ask honest questions and get helpful answers. It is not an opportunity for commenters to attack certain views or how one is going about deciding an issue (and I am not saying you meant to attack, but again it comes across that way). If I were Paul, I would want to defend myself, and that would likely lead to a debate. Again, that is not what this thread is for. I also have some issue with what you have said here. I think you are wrong about some things, but I am not going to engage your comments for the same reasons I just mentioned.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  264. This issue keeps coming across my day when listening to preachers, it seems many use the book, The Sovereignty of God, by Arthur Pink. Funny thing Armenians as well as Augustinians use this book. Why do both sides quote Pink?

  265. My comment was accurate and true. I was not attacking anyone, the man was struggling with which theology to choose, so I simplified it for him. I said to test it, as well as all other man contrived theologies and doctrines by the rule of John 3:16, which is the pivotal truth of the Bible,; i.e. God’s love for, and desire for all men to be saved. If Calvinism passes that test, so be it. I personally do not believe it does, but he can decide for himself. I also know that the “church” today is divided over other issues, such as the ones I mentioned above, but there is nothing in the Bible which tells us we have to be. The short answer is, if the Bible says we have to do something, or believe something, then we should, otherwise, we need to drop the arguments and posturing, and concentrate on what God wants us to. Would God want us arguing endlessly over which English version of His word is inspired? No, I do not believe so. Would He want us wasting time trying to put names on the essence of His being, and drawing lines in the sand telling people iof they do not see those things exactly as we do, that they are heretics? No, I do not. Would He want us to be spreading the gospel to all who are lost, and telling them of His love and desire for them to be saved? Yes, I believe He would. The bickering and posturing, and arguing over miniscules is taking time away from the precious duty of reaching lost souls for Jesus, and this is why we the saved are here. This is not an attack, just a reminder of that fact.

  266. I agree with Matthew that this is not an issue we should be divided over. It’s very clear that many intelligent, sincere, fully committed followers of Christ have ended up on opposite sides of this, and individuals on both sides have made great impacts for the Kingdom. You can clearly be a solid Christian as either a Calvinist or Arminian. On the other hand, it’s impossible to read the Bible and not see that unity among believers is essential.

    I appreciate how respectful the replies have been here. I’m glad that what we hold in common as believers is more valued than where we differ.

    Paul

  267. Matthew,

    I understand where you are coming from, and I wish it were always that simple. Of course, I agree with you on John 3:16. However, we can easily oversimplify things as well. Even John 3:16 is loaded with theology. God gave His Son. What does that mean? How does God have a Son? When Jesus calls God His Father, what does that mean? When the Bible assigns divine qualities to the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit, what does that mean in light of the fact that the Bible says there is only one God? If we draw conclusions on what the Bible says, does it then all of a sudden become man made or man contrived theology? I have a feeling you draw conclusions often when reading the Bible that go beyond the exact words of the Bible. That doesn’t mean your conclusions are man made or man contrived.

    I also understand the desire to say that we should not discuss such things but just spend all of our time witnessing, etc. But you are here spending time on this blog, and you are not witnessing either. I suppose you do a lot of things that are not exactly kingdom activities. However, I will say that many Arminians have been very mission minded and have devoted themselves to witnessing and the like and for that reason have not been as devoted to theology and scholarship. I think that is part of the reason there is not nearly as much scholarship on the Arminian side as from the Calvinist side (which is one of the concerns of this commenter). This is part of what has led to Calvinism making a very strong comeback and many people are now embracing a doctrine that you admit to not believing passes the test of John 3:16. So should we just ignore that? If God has burdened some of us with helping people see another perspective and giving them the tools they need to rightly evaluate Calvinist arguments, is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

    People are gifted in many ways and God builds His church in many ways. Witnessing is a huge part of that, but that is not all there is to it. Again, I wish it were that simple.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  268. Well said, Ben. The job of the church is really two fold, not one. The primary function of pastors and elders is toward the sheep. It’s to teach them sound doctrine and discipleship. Each believer then (along with them) by that word, is equipped fully by God the Holy Spirit for the many works of the church which includes evangelism. The church’s primary (not only) job, I’d say, is for the saints. If I’m called to teach then teach I must. Each member has its role in the body and all also serve the common life of the whole. Thank you for your reply to my question on miracles a short while ago sir. Your response has prompted countless hours of prayer, reading and writing. I do hope you’ll give this time’s final product letter some time if I send it to you. Take care.

  269. The church’s function is the same as Christ’s function, to seek and save the lost. Theology only serves a purpose if it works to that end. yes, we do need to know sound doctrine, and have a relationship with Jesus, but those are things that really only God can teach and show us. We can share our lessons with those less advanced and mature, but our reason for existing on earth as believers is to show others to salvation. Paul showed us this, by living, being tortured and dying just so people could hear the plain gospel. The church is far too involved in nit picking, and far too uninvolved in the business of our father.

  270. Thanks for sharing your view Matthew. I mostly agree with you. I just think you are being a little too narrow on a few things. But I don’t want to nit pick, so I will leave it alone.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  271. Hello,
    Do you have any recommendations that you can share for good unbiased church history resources? I purchased “Drive By Church History” by Todd Friel, and was so let down to hear Todd and his co-host categories the doctrine of free will as heresy and to listen to them praise Agustine for his contrary teachings, etc. I don’t feel like I can trust their history lessons as being unbiased now.

    I greatly appreciate your advice.

    Thank you,
    Riverwalk

  272. Jim,

    Unfortunately, I am not sure there is such a thing. It is really hard to be entirely objective when dealing with History. When I was in college, we used Justo L. Gonzalez’s “The Story of Christianity”, which is two volumes (the 1st is early church to the dawn of the Reformation, the 2nd is from the Reformation onward). I think those books were pretty objective (I haven’t looked at them in a while). Beyond that, I am not sure. It might be best to get some from a variety of writers from theological viewpoints and kind of get to the truth by comparing them. Here are links to the Gonzalez books:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Story-Christianity-Vol-Reformation/dp/006185588X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354818507&sr=8-1&keywords=the+story+of+christianity

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Story-Christianity-Vol-Reformation/dp/0061855898/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1354818507&sr=8-2&keywords=the+story+of+christianity

    God Bless,
    Ben

  273. I would say unbiased is difficult if not impossible these days, but your best bet is to go with ones that cite scripture as references to their points the most. If they keep it scriptural, it’s less likely for it to be over biased.

  274. Thank you Ben and Mattew. I responded to the email that I recieved but I don’t know if that will make my response show up here or not, so I am copying it here as well.

    I suspicioned that answer. And I suppose you are right, about reading from multiple sources and comparing them. That’s the approach I already have in mind if I can’t find something widely recognized as unbiased. And thank you very much for the reference. I will look it up.

    Am I perhaps not looking in the right places or does there indeed appear to be an imbalance in the volume of serious minded teaching and preaching from the Arminian perspective? I mean, it is amazing how many resources are out there from the Calvinist perspective, like Sermon Audio.com and Biblical Training.org, just to mention a couple. But where is the same volume and quality of teachings from the Non-Calvinist perspective? For quite a few years now my wife and I have been very discouraged as we visit from church to church looking for Christians who are serious about learning and studying their faith, and it never fails that the only churches that even come close to fitting the description are Calvinist. But we won’t stay in such a church because we are thoroughly opposed to the teaching of Calvinism. I would love to get your reaction to this and thank you so much for the great web site. You are certainly doing your part.

    Jim

  275. Jim,

    That is very hard to say. I would say in general that those from the Arminian viewpoint have been far more concerned with practical ministry, evangelism, and missions than those from the Calvinist perspective. Much of this is the natural outworking of the two theologies. Calvinist churches seem to be less concerned about outreach and more concerned with doctrine and scholarly endeavors, and proving their Calvinism. That might be why there is so much more out there from Calvinist perspectives, even though the church remains predominately non-Calvinist. But now that Calvinism is making a comeback, we are starting to see Arminians get more serious about such things and more works are being produced, like in the time of the early Methodists. That is an issue that sites like mine and SEA are trying to address.

    Again, this is a general observation. Many C churches are very missions minded, but that has not always been the case, and I still think that they have a tendency to focus on it less than Arminian churches, and to focus more on doctrine than Arminian churches.

  276. Ben,

    That makes a lot of sense to me. I have often wondered if there is perhaps a lack of motivation within Calvinist circles to evangelize, and I can see the general truth of what you are suggesting. So one could ask the question of Calvinism, e.g., why don’t we see more efforts toward wining souls for Christ within Calvinist leaning churches, etc? And you have given an answer to that question as well as an answer my first question.

    You have been very helpful and I greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much, and may God bless you for your excellent work on this web site.

    Jim

  277. Many of the Calvinists I have met have basically had the attitude that evangelism is just a formality. “After all, God regenerates us, so what real need is there for people to hear a gospel message?” In my opinion, it’s actually a good thing that they choose to limit their evangelism, because when their doctrine reached that level of heresy, it was better to not spread it

  278. Even though I feel Calvinism is heretical at it’s core, I know a number of Calvinists in different local churches, and they are just as zealous about evangelism as my non Calvinists brethren. This has been my experience thus far.

  279. I’m a Calvinist, fellas; I live for personal evangelism. So does every Calvinist I know. I’m a Southern Baptist (Baptist roots being unarguably Reformed). Founders of the largest evangelistic endeavors in recent church history that I’m aware of were all Calvinists. E.g. The Reformation (surely none would call Luther Arminianistic) Calvin, Evangelism Explosion (D. James Kennedy), 2/3 of the force behind the 1st Great Awakening (Whitefield, Edwards). Our theology isn’t a restriction. It’s what leads us to evangelize if we’re approved workmen. For just some historical roots of this why not listen to a Calvinist on the subject? John Piper’s bio series, “Men of Whom The World Was Not Worthy” is nothing short of sensational. Very worthwhile. I warmly invite you into the world of a John Paton, Charles Spurgeon or Adoniram Judson. They are of my Calvinism. Call them lazy. Just keyword search for Piper’s series on DesiringGod.org. There are a ton of missionaries/evangelists who dare to call Christ Savior, not co-Savior as the Arminian must. In Arminianism, if you remove your faith (the sole “condition” of salvation) Wesley, you’re left only with the possibility of grace and the certainty of hell. That’s why you’re your own co-savior. Our theology cannot produce such an inevitable boasting. We go as laborers in the Lord’s vineyard well versed in Scripture. Your banter that we’re lazy evangelists because we’re theologians is historically unsupportable. I’m not talking hyper-Calvinism. I’m talking real gospel.

  280. Joseph,

    There is no need for all the misrepresentations (all of the co-savior nonsense), even if you are agitated. I said, more than once, that this was a generalization. That means it doesn’t apply to everyone. Piper hasn’t been around that long. I understand that these things are important to Calvinists on a much larger scale now, but that wasn’t always the case. Even though there are evangelistic giants from the Calvinist camp throughout history, that doesn’t mean that all of Calvinism has always followed suit. A lot of the major Calvinist writings are from a time when many Calvinists were more interested in doctrine. I am not even suggesting that they were not interested in evangelism, only that there was more of an emphasis on doctrine. Likewise, Arminians have never been entirely disinterested in doctrine. Far from it. But I think it is a fair assessment to say that over time, they have been more interested in outreach and practical ministry and less interested in defending doctrines or Arminianism, or writing extensive scholarly works (there have been huge exceptions to this, just as there are exceptions in Calvinism).

    However, it is also a fact that nearly every Calvinist movement has had trouble with hyper-Calvinism (where evangelism is certainly not considered necessary- even a sin), or has seen many in the Calvinist camp eventually moving towards hyper Calvinist thinking (you can’t just dismiss hyper Calvinism as if it is not relevant to the conversation). That would never happen in Arminianism, and I think there is a theological reason for that. That is why we see so many Calvinist (like Piper and Sproul and many, many others) working so hard to explain why evangelism is still necessary in Calvinism. There is a reason for that. The reason is that even among Calvinists there are questions concerning how evangelism harmonizes with Calvinist doctrine.

    Sproul himself recounts a class discussion where Gerstner asked the class what the reason is for evangelism if God decreed election and reprobation form all eternity. Answers were hard to come by. Sproul admits that he was happy he was at the end of the semi-circle, so he could hear the other answers first. One student said, “”I don’t know sir, that question has always plagued me.” I think that represents a lot of Calvinists. Sproul wasn’t sure how to answer either, and said maybe it was because the Lord commanded it. Gerstner made a show of it. Of course that is the reason! So the explanation was simply that the Lord commanded it and that should be enough. OK, but that doesn’t explain why it is necessary, and I haven’t seen a good explanation yet. (Chosen by God, pp. 208-209- Sproul goes on to say that it is a great thing that “God allows us to participate in the greatest work in human history, the work of redemption”- now why don’t you see a belief in being a “co-savior” in Sproul’s statement?). This comes up over and over in Calvinist systematics or apologetics. Why? Because it is a very real problem for Calvinism and has always been since it is a legitimate and unavoidable logical inference that it is hard to explain motivation for evangelism given fundamental Calvinist presuppositions.

    Oh, and nobody said Calvinists are lazy.

    You also mention that your theology cannot produce such inevitable boasting, yet your post sure seems pretty boastful to me. And it is interesting to me that the big names in Calvinism have to so often address the issue of pride and arrogance among Calvinists (Piper has written articles on it, and even took a sabbatical so he could deal with pride). Likewise, the idea of being unconditionally chosen as God’s people plagued the Jews that Jesus often encountered and fueled their prideful rejection of Christ’s claims. So your comments are not only a straw man, but easily reversible.

    But this is not the place to debate these issues. I was just trying to answer a question. That’s what this thread is for. If you disagree, fine. It is just my opinion. I am glad you find evangelism so important and I am glad contemporary Calvinists like Piper are emphasizing it, despite the fundamental teachings of Calvinism that many see as directly undermining motivation for evangelism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  281. Paul,

    See my comments to Joseph.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  282. Hi Ben, its been awhile.

    I am curious today on which you think is the best analogy on how God calls Sinners. If you noticed, Calvinists use the drowning child analogy in which God must “draw” the child from the water. Hence I think they are using “emotional blackmail” vs. their opponents on the debate regarding Irresistible Grace.

    How about you? What do you think is the best/biblical analogy?

    Thanks,
    Rex

  283. Hi Joseph and Ben,

    By way of introduction, I’m on the fence, seriously investigating both perspectives, and currently leaning Calvinist.

    Can I make a suggestion Joseph? Piper taught a 10-part seminar series on Calvinism vs. Arminianism. You can find it on the website with some digging – it’s worth listening to. Disappointingly (to me), he didn’t address some of the concerns. It wasn’t systematic enough for my taste, and didn’t spend much time on some of what are (to me) the bigger questions. What struck me about it is how respectfully Piper approached the Arminian position, and how careful he was to define it properly. Shortly after listening to that series, I read Olson’s “Arminian Theology: Myth’s and Realities.” It was almost as if Piper had used that book to define the Arminian position – he was very fair to true Arminianism. This is in contrast to many Calvinists who paint Arminianism as semi-Pelagianism, since that is much easier to show as false. I came away from Piper’s series realizing much of my thinking was in fact Arminian (I just didn’t know it), and I came away from it with a much deeper respect for the Arminian position. Both positions are held by intelligent, devout Christians who will spend eternity together. While I think it’s an important issue, I hate to see it cause division within the church. Both sides deserve mutual respect.

    Ben, can I take a shot at explaining a Calvinist’s motivation for evangelism? I’ll start with an analogy I came up with a few years ago. I haven’t seen it used but seems sufficiently appropriate that I’d be astonished if it hasn’t been used before.

    Imagine a family with a very young child is decorating for Christmas. The father commands the child to hang some ornaments on the tree to help decorate. The child has two choices; obey and help to the best of their rather limited ability, or not obey and demand to watch TV instead.

    The father in that simple analogy has a plan for preparing for and celebrating Christmas. He could easily accomplish it himself (and probably a lot faster than having to rehang the ornaments after the child’s sincere but rather inept attempt at helping to decorate the tree). And, he will accomplish his plan regardless of whether or not the child chooses to obey. But, he would rather involve his child because he knows that the celebration of Christmas would be much more special and meaningful if the child was involved in preparing for it.

    Similarly, from a Calvinist’s perspective, God’s command to evangelize is an invitation to be a part of His plan to advance His Kingdom. He will accomplish it, with or without our obedience. We have a choice to obey, with promises of both rewards as well as the joys related to participation in God’s plan, or to disobey.

    I agree that passion for evangelism is less obvious for the Calvinist position, but (to me), there is still cause for it. As my small group covered Romans, we just went through CH. 6. Paul needs an entire chapter (and a somewhat complicated one) to explain why the gospel of salvation by grace through faith does not permit us to remain in sin. And, it’s clear that many through church history have taken the free gift of forgiveness and used it as a way to excuse continuing in whatever sin they fancy rather than striving towards Christ-likeness. So, in my mind, simply because it’s easy to distort a position towards an unbiblical extreme does not automatically negate the doctrine itself.

    I’d be very interested in hearing responses from Arminians to my reasoning regarding evangelism.

    Sorry for a long post – but this brings up another question I’ve always wanted to hear addressed by sincere and knowledgable Arminians. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Arminians believe that we need to evangelize in order to bring people to God who would not otherwise believe. (I’m not sure if that statement is correct – I don’t fully understand the Arminian position on predestination). In other words, suppose I was sitting in a cafe and God told me to share my faith with someone seated a few tables away. I would have two choices; obey and win that individual to Christ, or disobey and end up reading that individual’s obituary a few days later, having died without the Lord.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the situation above, that individual could have been saved if I obeyed God, or die without Christ if I chose not to. An individual could have been saved, but was not because of my disobedience. (This problem could be put a number of other ways – perhaps my hypocracy turns an individual off to Christianity – the overall problem is the same). Other peoples salvation can be affected by my obedience/disobedience, which strikes me as unfair.

    This is a more subtle problem than Calvinism faces with God who, for His own reasons, chooses not to elect individuals, but seems an equally troubling one to me.

    I’d be very interested in hearing comments on this – perhaps my understanding of the Arminian position is in error. But, if I understand the Arminian reasoning for evangelism, I believe my above reasoning must be correct.

    God bless,

    Paul

  284. I certainly don’t wish to be “non-sensical,” sir. Posting on blogs is really something I’ve never done. This is literally a first for me. I apologize if I’m unaccustomed to the manner of them. 🙂

    I think I might prefer Matthew’s charge of “Heresy” over laziness with regard to evangelism! Kidding. (FYI, I did teach a 10 part series on evangelism at my church last year. It’s in the video section of my site).

    A comment was made here by a fella named Rex who spoke of a drowning baby analogy from a Calvinist. With all respect, a Biblicist should not use such an analogy for salvation or how God calls in my opinion.

    The following is from a letter I’m currently writing on this point. I’d like to share it with you.

    Here is how some see God’s salvation:

    Picture an exhausted man treading water in a torrent a mile upstream from sure death. Along comes a boat to rescue him. The rescue workers, despite their best efforts, have only six feet of rope. The problem is that he’s nine feet down from the side. Even with everyone’s outstretched arms there’s still six inches between his fingertips and the end of the rope. They can do nothing but urge him to reach out, and they’ve been urging him for miles now. The man summons his strength, plunges down into the waters, expels his air, thrusts upward out of the water, grabs the tip of the rope and is pulled to safety. Upstream the man and crew are being interviewed. He says with complete thanks in his heart, “If it wasn’t for you guys, I would surely be dead.” He means it, and what he says is true. Here’s the kicker: the rescue worker who held the other end of the rope can say in equal honesty: “Sir, you make too much of me. Had you not grabbed the rope we could have done nothing.” Both parties would be true.

    That’s not the Bible’s view of salvation. Our thoughts on it would then be too earthly. One old preacher said it well when he said, “Christ did not come to make bad men good, He came to make dead men live.”

    Here’s the Biblical picture of how God saves:

    A man has drowned. He’s floating on the water. A rescue worker is lowered down to him and scoops his lifeless body from the torrent. Aboard the boat he is given cardio pulmonary resuscitation and brought back to life. This time when interviewed, when he says, “If it wasn’t for you guys, I would be dead” the rescue workers can simply say, “I know.”

    Of course, it ALL comes back to whether or not we believe that the fall of mankind affected every part of us. If there remains any part of our nature not dead in sin then we’ll see the reasonableness of free-willism/synergism. If we’re really dead in sin than the argument ceases on how God redeems.

    Prevenient grace affirms the existence of the fall of man, but curiously presents this doctrine as the fix all of God’s grace. Our death in Adam, which was very real it says, has been corrected. It thus acknowledges a problem that was never really a problem. Cain had the full restoration of prevenient grace as do we. His nature wasn’t only fallen. That’s like saying that if a man eats a fruit he’ll die then saying that no one’s ever died from eating it. It affirms the existence of the problem of sin (i.e. Original Sin), but sidelines its effects almost entirely. I will not write more here since I know brevity isn’t a gift of mine.

    Sir, If you can make the time, I’d like to invite you to the audio section of my website, http://www.Biblecia.com, to message # 216 called, “The Sovereign Promise of John the Baptist.” It’s related to this, albeit loosely. If and whenever you can make this 32 minute time, I’d be blessed to hear your reply to the ideas presented there by me.

    Thanks, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  285. Hi Joseph,

    Do you believe the drowning man analogy in your post best represents the non-Calvinist position? And considering that it is merely an analogy, why take the liberty to make the drowning man so valiant? Why unnecessarily make him such a brave and hardworking participant? When the non-Calvinist is more accurately represented, then he likewise is able to say to the rescue worker, “If it wasn’t for you guys, I would be dead”.

    The Bible says that salvation is a gift. So why not use the receiving of a gift as the example? A gift is not earned. If it were earned, it would not be a gift but rather a payment. And how does one receive a gift? By accepting it. Not by plunging into the waters and expelling breath in a death defying act of strength and bravery. Some gifts can be received with little more than the nod of one’s head or heart. It is the mere attitude of heart that says, “yes” and “thank you”. That is how you receive a gift. Now, I ask, where is the “work” in that? Where is the pride in that? The prideful man does not like to accept a true gift. And who has ever been congratulated for the part he played in accepting something that he did not and could not earn? Yet still, the gift had to be accepted. A gift can be given to a prideful man, and if he accepts it, and if he allows it, the inherent grace will melt his pride.

    I don’t pretend to understand every: who, why, where when and what of salvation. Far from it. I simply believe that the free will acceptance of God’s gift of salvation, makes by far the most holistic sense out of the Bible.

    Respectfully,
    Jim

  286. Paul,

    You write,

    Similarly, from a Calvinist’s perspective, God’s command to evangelize is an invitation to be a part of His plan to advance His Kingdom. He will accomplish it, with or without our obedience. We have a choice to obey, with promises of both rewards as well as the joys related to participation in God’s plan, or to disobey.

    This really doesn’t fit traditional Calvinism at all. In traditional Calvinism, there is no such thing as genuine choice. God decrees everything. He decrees our every thought, desire, choice and action, which is why choice doesn’t make much sense in Calvinism, since there is only ever one way a person can go, the way decreed by God, see my post: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Henshaw-Determinism-Free-Will-The-Reality-of-Choice-and-the-Testimony-of-Scripture).

    So it is hard to see this analogy as very accurate. Even in using his children, the Father is really just doing it himself, since in Calvinism God completely controls everything (that is how Calvinism defines sovereignty). Really, this is a much better analogy for evangelism in Arminianism.

    Also, in Calvinism, those who are decreed to be saved are saved no matter what, and those decreed to be reprobated, cannot possibly get saved. Here is where motivation becomes a problem. Witnessing can be intimidating. A consistent Calvinist can always reason that if they do not evangelize or witness, it is just as God has decreed it. If a certain person doesn’t get saved, it is just as God decreed in accordance with His good pleasure. If one doesn’t evangelize, and the person is elect, God will certainly reach that person some other way. In fact, God decreed that the person should be reached some other way. So from a personal and practical perspective, there is no strong motive for evangelism. In the end, whether we witness or not, everything is going according to God’s plan and could not possibly go any other way. All we do or don’t do is in accordance with God’s decree and we could not have possibly done otherwise.

    You mention Piper fairly representing Arminianism. That may be true to a large extent. The problem is that he isn’t always straight about all that Calvinism entails. The nature of God’s irresistible decree and exhaustive determinism is a view strongly held by Piper with some serious implications. I interact with it here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-part-1-an-arminian-response-to-pipers-first-question/

    I agree that passion for evangelism is less obvious for the Calvinist position, but (to me), there is still cause for it. As my small group covered Romans, we just went through CH. 6. Paul needs an entire chapter (and a somewhat complicated one) to explain why the gospel of salvation by grace through faith does not permit us to remain in sin. And, it’s clear that many through church history have taken the free gift of forgiveness and used it as a way to excuse continuing in whatever sin they fancy rather than striving towards Christ-likeness.

    But again, if Calvinism is true, that is exactly how God decreed it to be. Those who use it as an excuse had no more power to not use it as an excuse and sin as to create a universe. Nobody can resist or act counter to God’s eternal decree.

    So, in my mind, simply because it’s easy to distort a position towards an unbiblical extreme does not automatically negate the doctrine itself.

    But the doctrine is not being distorted at all. It is simply being honestly evaluated.

    I’d be very interested in hearing responses from Arminians to my reasoning regarding evangelism.

    See above. The problem comes in the irresistible eternal decree of God which not only dictates who will be saved and how, but also dictates whether or not we will be motivated to witness (just as it dictates everything we think, desire, or do). If we don’t feel motivated, then that is just as God decreed it to be. Nothing really to worry about. That is the problem.

    Sorry for a long post – but this brings up another question I’ve always wanted to hear addressed by sincere and knowledgable Arminians. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Arminians believe that we need to evangelize in order to bring people to God who would not otherwise believe. (I’m not sure if that statement is correct – I don’t fully understand the Arminian position on predestination). In other words, suppose I was sitting in a cafe and God told me to share my faith with someone seated a few tables away. I would have two choices; obey and win that individual to Christ, or disobey and end up reading that individual’s obituary a few days later, having died without the Lord.

    That is quite possible.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the situation above, that individual could have been saved if I obeyed God, or die without Christ if I chose not to. An individual could have been saved, but was not because of my disobedience. (This problem could be put a number of other ways – perhaps my hypocracy turns an individual off to Christianity – the overall problem is the same). Other peoples salvation can be affected by my obedience/disobedience, which strikes me as unfair.

    If God has sovereignly determined to use us to reach others, then there is nothing unfair about that. But that provides a tremendous motivation for witness, knowing that if we do not obey God, people can indeed miss heaven (Romans 10:14-15, cf. Ezek. 33:6). We could also call it unfair that some are raised in godly homes with far more exposure to the gospel than others. But Paul doesn’t think so, since God is close to all of us, and can be found by us, despite our history, birth place, upbringing, etc (Acts 17:26-27). However, God desires all to be saved in a resistible manner, rather than in an irresistible manner, and that is His sovereign prerogative (since salvation is tied up in a relationship with Christ, and genuine relationship involves genuine choice). I find it unlikely that anyone who perishes did not have an opportunity to respond to God’s grace in such a way that would eventually lead to salvation. Still, it may be that the opportunity afforded by us could have made the difference, though they had other opportunities.

    This is a more subtle problem than Calvinism faces with God who, for His own reasons, chooses not to elect individuals, but seems an equally troubling one to me.

    It should trouble us all to take witnessing very seriously. I wish God didn’t leave such a thing in our hands, but I will not argue with Him. He has left it to us to a large extent and we need to take that responsibility very seriously. I think the Bible is clear on that.

    I’d be very interested in hearing comments on this – perhaps my understanding of the Arminian position is in error. But, if I understand the Arminian reasoning for evangelism, I believe my above reasoning must be correct.

    Again, it is just an analogy, and we do not know all the factors when someone dies without Christ. We do not know how often they may have heard before. We do not know if they would have responded, had we witnessed. But there is no Biblical reason to discount the possibility that such a person might miss heaven if we (or anybody else) fails to reach out to them as God has commanded us to do. If that were not the case, then Arminians would have no more motivation than the Calvinist, since they could just comfort themselves with the idea that if God wants them saved, He will make sure they get saved, regardless of our witness. That seems clearly unbiblical to me.

    So in Arminianism God desires all to be saved, and He desires to use us to reach the lost, but not in an irresistible manner. To whom much is given, much is required, and God will judge mankind fairly. Just writing this has convicted me concerning my own witnessing efforts and has reminded me just what is at stake. In Calvinism, one can find self-centered reasons for prayer and evangelism (in that God uses it to benefit us personally, as in your analogy), but nothing is ever really at stake. In Arminianism, prayer and evangelism is far more other-centered, and a tremendous amount is at stake.

    God has created free moral agents and given us important tasks. He will hold us accountable for our actions because our actions have consequences (Ezek. 33:6). He has every right to do that, and I don’t see that we can say that is unfair. That is just making an excuse for our actions.

    Sorry if that is not exactly what you expected to hear.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  287. I think I might prefer Matthew’s charge of “Heresy” over laziness with regard to evangelism! Kidding.

    Again, nobody made the charge of laziness (see my post above to you).

    Of course, it ALL comes back to whether or not we believe that the fall of mankind affected every part of us. If there remains any part of our nature not dead in sin then we’ll see the reasonableness of free-willism/synergism. If we’re really dead in sin than the argument ceases on how God redeems.

    This just doesn’t follow. In both views, our depravity makes faith impossible. The only difference is that in Arminianism God’s gracious enabling is resistible, rather than irresistible. And both views hold that we are dead in sin. The difference is that Calvinists wrongly understand what being dead in sin means, and then wrongly draw the conclusion that regeneration precedes faith, even though the Bible everywhere puts spiritual life after faith and not before.

    That’s like saying that if a man eats a fruit he’ll die then saying that no one’s ever died from eating it. It affirms the existence of the problem of sin (i.e. Original Sin), but sidelines its effects almost entirely. I will not write more here since I know brevity isn’t a gift of mine.

    That is interesting coming from a Calvinist. Calvinism holds that we should take the warnings against falling away or the admonishments to endure in faith seriously, but it also says no believer has ever fallen away or failed to endure in the faith. So if this is your argument, it cuts both ways.

    But the analogy doesn’t fit prevenient grace. Was Cain able to resist temptation? God seemed to think so (Gen. 4:6, 7). If prevenient grace enables us to do something that we could not do otherwise, then it is certainly important since it addresses a real problem. If there was no problem, then there would be no need for it. If I give Ritalin to a child who cannot focus enough to do his homework, and now he can focus, that doesn’t mean ADD is no longer a problem, or that it is just hypothetical, etc. It doesn’t mean he will do his homework either.

    I am not a fan of such analogies, because we can spin them and load them whichever way we like. The best approach is to stick with what the Bible says (see Jim’s excellent comments above). The Bible says that faith carries no merit because it receives a free and unearned gift (Romans 4). That is good enough for me. The Bible never says that a gift is only a gift if it is irresistibly given. It never hints that receiving a free and unearned gift means that we contributed to the gift somehow or gave the gift to ourself, or somehow became a co-giver of the gift just because we freely received it. Not only are such things absurd on the face of it, but they find no Biblical support. That is the problem with the Calvinist approach. It goes beyond what is written and loads its own philosophy into Biblical statements that say nothing of the sort. My opinion, of course.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  288. Oh, and if we really want to be strict with analogies, then Calvinists should admit that the man in the boat irresistibly caused the man in the water to get in the water in the first place. He then wants glory for saving the person from a predicament that he put the man in to begin with. Somehow, Calvinist analogies always seem to forget such things.

  289. Paul (December 9, 2012 at 9:20 pm),

    Let me add something to Ben’s excellent response. You think it unfair that our evangelistic choices would make a difference in whether someone gets saved or not. But this conclusion seems unwarranted to me.

    First and foremost, it is not unfair because the lost person himself still has a choice in relation to the gospel on Arminian premises. God reaches out to all. If the person is open to the gospel we can trust God to get it to him even if he has to do it himself (such as through dream or vision). But it remains true that perhaps the person would have found persuasive what the believer who failed to share with him would have shared. Or perhaps hearing it again would have found acceptance. I suspect this is something you would find unfair. That brings us to my second point.

    That is, second, we are all subject to impact from other people’s actions. That is how reality is set up in a world of beings with free will. It is not unfair for that to be allowed to happen, particularly when God will hold all accountable for how they used their free will. Otherwise, you would have to think very much of life unfair. Now you might say the person who failed to tell you something helpful treated you unfairly. But if the person ends up with what he needed to make the right choice, then it is not unfair for him to be judged for making the wrong choice, even if he would have responded to further influence with the right choice.

    Let me give you an example. A college professor has put the necessary information into his syllabus for students to properly do their assignments. But the school dean knows from experience that many students do not pay proper attention to the syllabus. So he charges all professors to remind their students of their duties in the latter part of the semester. The professor fails to do so. He is responsible for that failure. But the students who did not follow the syllabus but would have if reminded would still in all fairness be responsible for their failure to follow the syllabus even though they would have chosen rightly if reminded.

  290. Thanks very much for your quick and thoughtful replies Ben and Arminian. That’s a lot to think about.

    I’ve been doing a lot of teaching for small groups over the past few years, and hope to do much more. I had been brought up in a family that considered themselves moderate Calvinists, but in a way that was really a hybrid of the two positions. I now realize that how they “hybridized” the two was to more-or-less take the classical Arminian position, but with a side of eternal security (which, if I understand correctly, is allowed within Arminianism, although held by a minority). On the other hand, much of the teaching/writing that resonates the most with me tends to come from 5-point Calvinists. So, this is a question I really want to investigate and decide for myself (it’s hard to study – much less teach through – Romans without forming an opinion. I still can’t seem to get off the fence. I’d like to before I hit Ch. 9 in a few months, but I think this is a bigger question than that.

    One thing Ben said that I’d like more information on concerns free will vs. God’s sovereignty. My understanding of the Calvinist perspective is that God will override our free will when necessary for his plan, but that this is not always the case. In Rom. 9, Paul seems to use the example of Pharaoh and the plagues in this way. Going back to Exodus, after the first few plagues, the text states Pharaoh hardened his heart. On the last plagues, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. In the Exodus text, it’s as if Pharaoh initially chose to set a course on his own that fit God’s plan. For God to accomplish what he wanted, he hardened Pharoah’s heart to help him finish that course. That has always been my understanding of how Calvinists view free will; it exists, but within the constraints of God’s higher purposes.

    Here is my question. Do mainstream Calvinists specifically deny the existence of free will entirely? Could you point me to a few Calvinist sources that clearly deal with this? (Disappointingly, Piper did not address the issue in his seminar I alluded to previously).

    Again, thank you for this forum.

    Paul

  291. Paul,

    Many Calvinists say they believe in free will, but it is not what you would normally understand to be free will. Traditional Calvinism is very clear that God controls everything. That is what sovereignty means to Calvinists. If we could form a thought or move on a desire independent of God’s control, He would not be sovereign. Even further, Calvinists base God’s foreknowledge on His decree alone. So God can only foreknow what He decreed from eternity and will infallibly bring about in time. This obviously includes everything since Calvinists see foreknowledge as exhaustive. That can only be if the decree is likewise exhaustive. That means that even our every sinful thought, desire and action was irresistibly decreed by God so that we can no more avoid those thoughts, desires, and actions than we could make God cease to exist. That is why Calvinism is often charged with making God the author of sin.

    Some Calvinists deny free will altogether without trying to make it still sound as if free will is real. All Calvinists deny libertarian free will (which includes real options, real choices, and alternative power in the will). Instead, they hold to “compatibilism”. Compatibilism is the view that free will is compatible with determinism. How can that be? They simply re-define free will. They say that one is free (and morally accountable) if one can do as they desire. But here is the catch. We have no control over our desires or which desire will win out in choosing. So really we do not have freedom of the will. Our will is controlled by the greatest desire, and we have no control over what desire will be the greatest. And in the end, God still controls everything, even in compatibilism.

    If you read the post on Piper I referred you to, you will see how this plays out. So no Calvinist believes that alternative power exists in the will. They believe that we choose in accordance with desires that we have no control over. Desires control us and God ultimately controls our desires, just as He controls everything else. No Calvinist holds to libertarian fee will, as it has come to be known. If you look at my post on choice that I referred you to, that will help you as well.

    In the end, Calvinists do not make free will compatible with determinism. That’s impossible. The concepts are mutually exclusive. A good example would be the difference between being married and being a bachelor. These terms, when rightly understood, are mutually exclusive. You can’t make them compatible. But if you re-define “married” to mean “single”, then Voila!, Bachelor and Married are now compatible. Or suppose you wanted to make a square compatible with a circle. Well, you could just carve away at the edges until the square became a circle. But would we then say that squares are compatible with circles? Of course not. Compatibilism is just a catchy term to give the impression that a real solution has been reached, when that is not the case at all. When you re-define freedom in a deterministic way, you do not make freedom compatible with determinism. All you do is prove that determinism is compatible with determinism, and who denies it?

    My understanding of the Calvinist perspective is that God will override our free will when necessary for his plan, but that this is not always the case.

    This is actually the Arminian view. In Calvinism, God is always controlling the will, so there is never any need to “override” it.

    As far as sources, you can read from any Calvinist and see how they understand free will and how they deny it as normally understood, going all the way back to Calvin.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  292. Thanks again for such a prompt, thorough, and thoughtful answer. Piper’s “Spectacular Sins and the Glory of God” book is on my shelf. I was planning to read that prior to your post. From the title, that appears to be a response to that book. Looks like I’ve got a lot of reading to do as well as contemplating. I’ll try not to post too many more questions until I have time to do more reading!

    Grace and peace,

    Paul

  293. Paul,

    I have not read that book. The post is in response to a sermon and the entire sermon is quoted (except for the second part which I hope to address in a future post sometime soon). Definitely read the book, but I would read the post first as it will not take as long and will help you quickly get a grasp on what Piper believes and how he tries to deal with the inevitable (and unfortunate) implications of his exhaustive determinism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  294. Cain had the full restoration of prevenient grace as do we. His nature wasn’t only fallen.

    If he is not fallen, what is prevenient grace for?

    ^ then see the Ritalin Analogy of ben.

    Anyway Joseph, I already experienced hearing such things from Calvinists since 2006 I think. Looks like until now, Prevenient Grace is misunderstood.

    But I do thank you for your reply.

    Many thanks to everyone too. That Drowning Child analogy really is bothersome I think for us who wants an objective debate.

    Godbless,
    Rex

  295. I would dearly appreciate some help in working through the Calvinist claim that God’s sovereignty entails the fact that God does ordain evil, and is not simply passively letting it happen. I have great difficulty with this claim, in large part because I think my view of God is conditioned by the NT claim that God is love, and in the incarnation, Jesus is the definitive revelation of God’s love.

    Yet I have only this Sunday had a guest preacher using Isaiah 45 argue that god not only permits but in actual fact ordains evil to his good ends. That God uses evil is qualified by the claim that His Godly and good sovereign intention and motive makes it OK – and why should the clay dictate how the potter chooses to make use of it.

    He made much of texts which spoke of visiting evil etc, and even went on to imply that when evil and suffering befalls a person, it is only because God ordains it. I simply find this hard to accept, but am made to feel that I am simply trying to make excuses for wanting God to fall into line with my own view of love and goodness.

    The pastoral implication of such a deterministic view also worries me. How does this bring consolation to a woman who has been repeatedly abused and raped, parents who child’s is abducted and murdered etc.?

    How does a relational/Arminian view respond to such deterministic claims, and how does it deal with theft which seemingly suggest God does ordain evil?

    Your help would be much appreciated.

    Ralph

  296. Ralph,

    Thanks for stopping by. I am surprised that guest preacher would say such things. It is especially disturbing against the backdrop of recent events. I find it strange that Isaiah 45 was used to teach this stuff. There is nothing in that chapter that would suggest that God ordains or causes evil. The closest we could get would be verse 7 where the Lord says He brings prosperity and creates disaster. But to assume “disaster” has reference to moral evil is to read massively into the text. Indeed, God does bring disaster, but does not cause moral evil. In this context, God is making it clear that the judgment that will come upon Israel is from Him, just as the blessings they experienced were from Him.

    The issue of the pots talking back to the maker has nothing to do with God causing His pots to do evil. Again, that needs to be read into the text. God is addressing Israel as a nation. It is the nation of Israel that God created, and they are about to suffer judgment. Yet, God knows that they refuse to look at themselves even in impending judgment. Rather than finding fault with themselves, they find fault with God, charging that God has been unfaithful to His promises to Israel when it is Israel that has been unfaithful to God.

    The primary passage for the imagery of the Potter is in Jeremiah 18. Calvinists will often reference it as proof that God can form us however He wants and do whatever He wants with us unconditionally. It is often cited as a proof text for unconditional election along side Romans 9:19-22. But this is not at all what is being taught in Jeremiah 18. In that passage, the imagery of the Potter is an image of judgment. God had good purposes for Israel when He formed them, but because of their hardness, they could not be formed as He intended (they were marred in His hands). So God reformed them for judgment, despite His good intentions. The imagery is entirely conditional as Jeremiah 18:7-10 makes clear,

    If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me [as was the case with Israel], then I will reconsider the good I intended to do for it.

    In the next verses, God declares that He is “preparing disaster” for Israel as a result of their sin. Sound familiar? Likewise, in Romans 9, Paul is addressing the same issue. Israel has been judged as the result of their hardness and their rejection of the Messiah while many Gentiles have found favor with God through faith in Christ. Rather than acknowledging their sin and recognizing God’s just judgment, the Jews were complaining that God was being unfaithful to His promises to Israel. So Paul references this imagery to remind them that God’s judgment is just and their favor with God is not unconditional as they imagined. But God is still merciful in that the Jews can still be reconciled to God through Christ, for Christ is God’s chosen covenant Head, the true Israel, the promised “Seed.” God’s intentions are still to have mercy on all (Romans 11:32, cf. Isaiah 45:22-25).

    Hope that helps. You may also find helpful my interaction with John Piper on the claim that God ordains evil: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-part-1-an-arminian-response-to-pipers-first-question/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  297. There is a verse somewhere that says basically “He makes/creates the evil and the good. The reason some think that means that God causes evil is because they don’t understand that the context is the people he makes that DO EVIL and good. It just means that both evil and good people were made by God, not that God causes evil or is evil. If you cause evil, you are evil, there is no way around it. If I cause someone to lie, I have as much as lied myself, because I am the direct cause of the lie.

  298. Ben,

    Several years ago I became “convinced” of unconditional election and limited atonement (I balked at them originally) after listening to RC Sproul many times on Calvinism. I became convinced because of “total depravity” and all the passages regarding spiritual death. I have been reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, regarding regeneration and election mainly. I belong to a solid, loving, reformed type of church and I have been happy in my understanding of such things for years, until this week when I discovered that Calvinism teaches regeneration prior to faith (how I missed that I have no idea). This all began while emailing an Arminian guy on regeneration, so I began to study John 1-6.

    I now can’t make sense of the logic of regeneration preceding faith, mainly because John seems to put them together or to put faith first. Can you help me to understand your position better?

    I also have some questions about free will, like where do you find it in the Bible? It seems that the free will/total depravity argument is a major deciding factor of whether one chooses Calvinism or Arminianism. I would at least like to be sure of what I believe, whether it be Calvinism or other. I have been checking out the Examining Calvinism link and found it helpful. I feel so foolish because I have studied this topic (and debated) without really considering the Arminian side on its own. Thanks for your help,

    Gene

  299. Hi Gene, I know you wanted Ben to answer this, and he may have a better answer than I do, but here’s what I have found. The word faith in Greek means a personal conviction of something, so that alone would indicate choice. Then, if you will note that the Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is in the world to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement, Those two things coupled together leave little doubt that someone must willingly respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to be saved. Also consider that if we are convicted of being sinners, of God’s righteous requirements and of impending judgement, faith would be null and pointless if God simply regenerated us at His discretion, and did not give us a choice in the matter. Most lost people know on some level that they are sinners, and that God is righteous, and that there is a judgement day coming, they are just too proud or caught up in sin to care. They reason, as I did that when they are about to die, they will drop a quick prayer to God like “dear God, I ask you to save me in Jesus name, amen” and that will be enough to save them. They don’t realize or want to realize that they must do more than say some prescribed prayer to be saved, even Catholics say prayers earnestly to no avail. They neglect to take into consideration repentance, which is a change of mind, and continual faith, which must be life changing if exercised.

  300. So much for the carnal man being unable to grasp the things if God.

  301. Joseph,

    This is a thread for questions. Not sure how your comment amounts to a question.

  302. I’m sorry sir, I meant no disrespect. I did see Matt’s response to the other fellow.

  303. Ben, please let me know if you’d like me to continue any specific conversations under another thread. I’ve begun to read a few of the links and found them helpful (esp. the 1st on Ordo Salutis and the 3rd on The Dead Will Hear…).

    Matt, the questions I’m working through are, When/how does regeneration occur and in what order compared to other things (faith, repentance, etc)? I agree that faith indicates a choice and that it’s the Spirit who convicts. You said,

    “faith would be null and pointless if God simply regenerated us at His discretion, and did not give us a choice in the matter.”

    This makes God’s regenerating us sound whimsical and void of human choice, something Calvinism would deny. God does not say in the Word that He regenerates men at some arbitrary moment and then forces us to believe, for I think all Christians believe willingly when we understand gospel truths.

    I think the first question is, Did we want to believe (or could we) prior to the Spirit’s working? The next question would be, By what means could we repent/believe if regeneration precedes or follows faith and repentance? Ben made this clear regarding John 5:24, 25 that the dead will hear and live. But Jesus does not say there whether they are even able (understanding that sin has affected our whole being). Is it by regeneration or by prevenient grace? This probably brings us into the question of depravity and the freedom/bondage of the will. So far I see good points on both sides, and that’s what makes it confusing. I will continue reading the links and look forward to your responses.

  304. God does not say in the Word that He regenerates men at some arbitrary moment and then forces us to believe, for I think all Christians believe willingly when we understand gospel truths.

    I’m not sure that is what Matt was saying. Calvinists do typically say that God would regenerate unto faith when the elect person hears the gospel, but it could be at anytime when someone hears the gospel. For example, someone who is “elect” could hear the gospel and reject it one day and then accept it another day because God then chooses to regenerate the person.

    Calvinists would also not like the language of “force”, but it is not really accurate under Calvinist assumptions to say that it is a “choice” we make when regenerated. If regeneration guarantees a positive faith response, then there is no genuine choice, since there is only one course of action possible- faith. The post I linked to on the reality of choice and Scripture deals with that problem. There is real lack of clarity in the way that Calvinists describe how one comes to faith when regenerated. I wrote a short post addressing some problems with their language a while back. Here is the link if you want to check it out (I know you already have few to read),

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/resistible-grace-or-sinless-perfection-a-call-for-theological-precision-in-the-calvinist-accounting-of-monergistic-conversion/

    I think the first question is, Did we want to believe (or could we) prior to the Spirit’s working?

    No, not according to Arminianism or Calvinism. The main difference is in describing that working. Both say it is an act of grace needed to enable faith, or any move towards God.

    The Arminian says this act of grace that enables the depraved sinner to believe is resistible. It makes faith possible where it was previously impossible. However, it doesn’t guarantee a faith response, and it is not regeneration.

    The Calvinist says this act of grace is regeneration and is irresistible. This irresistible regeneration doesn’t just make faith possible, but irresistibly causes faith (i.e. when one is regenerated, they cannot possibly avoid believing. Faith becomes irresistible for the one God chooses to regenerate).

    The next question would be, By what means could we repent/believe if regeneration precedes or follows faith and repentance?

    By the enabling power of the word and Spirit. Regeneration is the impartation of new Spiritual life which results from being joined to Christ (and His life) which is communicated to us through the indwelling Spirit. The Scriptures are clear that we receive the Holy Spirit by faith and are joined to Christ by faith. Therefore, the Bible is pretty clear that faith precedes regeneration.

    In my opinion, Calvinism actually downplays the significance of regeneration (as a primary aspect of what it means to be saved), by nearly always referring to it as just the way that God causes faith in the “elect.” The Bible never does that. In my opinion, Calvinism also downplays the importance of the cross and the need for our sins to be removed in placing regeneration before faith (and therefore before justification). If God can impart spiritual life to us prior to forgiving us and justifying us on the merits of Christ’s death, then what need was there for Christ’s death?

    But Jesus does not say there whether they are even able (understanding that sin has affected our whole being).

    Right, Jesus doesn’t really address that directly in that passage. But what Jesus does say disqualifies the Calvinist claim that new spiritual life is what causes us to “hear.” Rather, hearing is what leads to life.

    Is it by regeneration or by prevenient grace?

    Resistible prevenient grace.

    May God Bless you as you continue to seek Him on this matter, and may He lead you into all truth. Feel free to ask more questions here, or comment in the threads of the various posts.

  305. Gene,

    Ben has done a lot of great work on regeneration at this site. I am actually surprised he did not mention some of his most fundamental posts about it. If you are really interested in the topic, I would recommend using the regeneration link in this site’s topical index and reading through each article that seems appropriate, starting with the earliest. There are 33 posts on the topic! You can find the link in the left sidebar, but here it is for your convenience: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/regeneration/.

    Also, here is perhaps Ben’s most fundamental post on the subject: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/does-regeneration-precede-faith/. But there are lots of good ones.

  306. Thanks guys, I’ll check them out!

  307. I was interested in the recent thread about regeneration as it relates to faith, and would like to comment on it based on a book I am reading by John Piper called Finally Alive. His view is actually that faith and regeneration are simultaneous – one does not precede the other. In John 3:3 Jesus says “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” and in John 3:36 he says “whoever believes in the son has eternal life”. Piper points out that these two sayings of Jesus should not be separated, because what happens in regeneration is the creation of life in union with Christ and part of how God does that is by the creation of faith, which is how we experience union with Christ. Spiritual birth and faith in Jesus come into being together. The new life makes the faith possible and there is no life without faith in Jesus.

  308. Sally,

    Faith and regeneration are only simultaneous with respect to time (temporally, they are simultaneous). But there has to be a logical order, and it is the logical order that we are discussing. One must precede the other in logical order. Here is an easy way to look at it.

    Calvinism: The moment we are regenerated, we believe

    Arminianism: The moment we believe we are regenerated

    See the difference? In both we could say that faith and regeneration happen “simultaneously”, but there is still a big difference in logical order. Your last comment puts the logical priority on regeneration; it “makes faith possible”. If it makes faith possible, it must come logically first. However, the last part of your sentence is confusing. It can only comport with the first part of your sentence if you ignore logical order and are speaking temporally. Otherwise, your sentences is plainly contradictory, and false.

    Piper plainly puts regeneration logically prior to faith and sees it as what causes faith: “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 [by faith] as the Treasure that he is.” (Brackets mine)

    That quote comes from a sermon called, “Regeneration, Faith, Love: In That Order.” That says it all.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/regeneration-faith-love-in-that-order

    God Bless,
    Ben

  309. Sally,

    Ben has already responded with showing that Piper does actually teach that regeneration logically precedes faith though they are temporally simultaneous. Ben did so from outside Piper’s *Finally Alive,* but Piper teaches the same thing in that book. Hopefully you see why his teaching is in error on this point. He’s right that faith and regeneration are temporally simultaneous, but wrong that regeneration is logically prior. Scripture is clear that it is the other way around — faith logically precedes regeneration, as Ben argues compellingly on this site.

  310. I found an interesting and timely quote from Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology. The context is the question of the sinner’s “freedom to do right, and to do what is pleasing to God.” Here it is:

    “The application to our lives is quite evident: if God gives anyone a desire to repent and trust in Christ, he or she should not delay and should not harden his or her heart (cf. Heb. 3:7–8; 12:17). This ability to repent and desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and it will not last forever.” (p. 498)

    I found several problems, but I’ll briefly mention a couple (which up until recently I would have missed). First, if we’re unconditionally elected then we shouldn’t have to worry about missing out on the Spirit’s prompting since we’re guaranteed to be saved. Second, if this is so, then why bother telling us that it won’t last forever? Third, if the initial work of the Spirit in us (according to Calvinism) is regeneration, then this ability to repent and believe now is naturally ours since regeneration has made us new creatures who can (and will) now repent and believe. Then of course there’s the problem with telling the reprobate that they have the ability to repent and their desire to trust God is from the Spirit, when in actuality the Spirit will not cause them to be born again since they are not elect–this is akin to teasing the damned with desires that they cannot act upon and gives them a false hope.

    Now, while I do appreciate this book and his theological wisdom, this quote is very illogical and leaves a bad taste in my mouth in regards to what I recently held as true. Calvinism seems to be falling apart at the seams as I study these things. What I can’t believe is that this has all happened to me in the course of one week without any intention on my part. Amazing.

  311. By the way, where do people get the idea that if you are unable to do any spiritual good that that includes believing? I can’t think of any verses that say we can’t seek God in faith, but that we don’t.

  312. Now Dimly,

    You are quite right that Grudem’s comments are incoherent, and you did well to notice the many problems (and there are actually more). This is not uncommon among Calvinist writers. His comments here majorly contradict fundamental Calvinist claims. Indeed, he sounds like an Arminian. That is often the case when Calvinists are trying to make sense of their doctrines against the backdrop of plain Scriptural claims or the reality we live in every day. Arminianism simply fits better with Scripture and reality, so Calvinist easily lapse into language that is essentially Arminian in nature and alien to the fundamental claims that stand behind and define Calvinist thought.

    May God lead you into truth.

  313. Sir, Jesus said clearly in the latter part of John 6 that no one “could do the spiritual good” of drawing near to Him…unless. Unless what? There’s one of dozens of passages and teachings that stand in contrast to the humanistic insights read into Scripture through Arminianism. What’s the explain away of this? Whosoever will because all are drawn, right? I guess all in fact come then!

  314. Joseph,

    Who is this directed to? This, like your last comment, seems to be nothing more than a mini rant. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you have a specific question? If not, please stay off of this thread.

  315. I see. It’s just you and your Arminian cohorts who you allow to rant. I presented a comment on John 6 in response to a comment made between you and another fellow that there are no texts that would “imply” that men not doing any spiritual good means no belief. Jesus said no one can come to Him without God’s drawing. It’s also sure that God is not drawing all yet all who are drawn He said will surely come. Seems relevant ranting. Granted it was between several other NON-questions between you and another assuring one another in your ideology against Wayne Grudem and what not. If you want pure restriction that’s fine. You’ll not hear from me again. I’m sure you’ve gotten the same censorship elsewhere when men disagree with your ideas, Kangaroo-dort (a slam against the synod it seems).

  316. Joseph,

    I don’t mind Calvinist rants. I have been hearing them and responding to them for 6 years now. However, this is not the proper place. If you scroll up to the stated purpose of this specific page, you will find that it says,

    “This page is not for convinced Calvinists who want to debate. It is for those who are exploring various approaches to soteriology and would like some guidance in specific areas.”

    So, are you exploring various approaches to soteriology and needing some guidance? Or, are you a convinced Calvinist looking to pick a fight?

    I presented a comment on John 6 in response to a comment made between you and another fellow that there are no texts that would “imply” that men not doing any spiritual good means no belief.

    Actually, that was just a question that someone asked. You will notice that I hadn’t gotten around to responding to that yet.

    Jesus said no one can come to Him without God’s drawing.

    Agreed. All Arminians hold to this.

    It’s also sure that God is not drawing all yet all who are drawn He said will surely come.

    Well, this is a common Calvinist claim, but the text nowhere says that all who are drawn come. That is something that Calvinist read into the text.

    Still, it would be one thing to just mention that John 6 makes it clear that only those that the Father draws can come to Jesus. But you did more than that. You went on about how Arminianism is supposedly “humanistic”, etc. None of that was necessary or helpful. Just ranting.

    Granted it was between several other NON-questions between you and another assuring one another in your ideology against Wayne Grudem and what not.

    There is that ranting again. Not even accurate ranting. What do you think about Grudem’s comments? Do they comport with the fundamental tenets of Calvinism? Do you have a problem with someone reading a comment by a theologian and noticing a major inconsistency? Why is that so seemingly offensive and rant provoking to you?

    If you want pure restriction that’s fine. You’ll not hear from me again. I’m sure you’ve gotten the same censorship elsewhere when men disagree with your ideas, Kangaroo-dort (a slam against the synod it seems).

    Nobody is trying to censor you. If I wanted to censor you I would just delete your comments. But I have let them stand. I have just pointed out that this is not the proper place for such comments. You may not like it, but I want to provide an environment where people can ask honest questions about Arminianism and Calvinism without being attacked by an angry Calvinist.

    There are tons of posts and articles at this site. Many of them deal with John 6. You can read those and challenge them in the comment threads. I would be happy to engage you on those topics. But this is not the proper place for it.

    As far as my screen name goes, here is something I wrote a while ago:

    Some Calvinists have complained about my screen name, “kangaroodort”, because it expresses my belief that the Synod of Dort has no real historical significance with regards to the truth of Arminianism. It doesn’t matter to me that a bunch of Calvinists condemned Arminianism because Arminianism didn’t line up with their Calvinistic creeds and confessions (surprise, surprise!), any more than it matters to me that Catholics condemned all protestants at the Council of Trent. Yet, some Calvinists hold up Dort as a clear testimony to the heretical nature of Arminianism. My screen name is defensive against those who would wrongly call me a heretic. It is not meant to be offensive in the sense of “bashing Calvinists.” The fact is that if Calvinists want to claim that Calvinism is just a “nickname” for the gospel and that anything short of Calvinism is therefore not the gospel, then there is a need for addressing such bold attacks on Non-Calvinists.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/bashing-calvinism/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  317. In grace and patience:

    Fair enough. I am on “Arminian Perspectives” after all. I know what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m sorry if my posts are inconveniently or incorrectly placed. They’ll stop soon I think so that I’m not feeding into too many stereotypes in blog-world. I see the responses and dialogs sent to me between you and some others, and, out of the last few, have only just chosen to offer a response (rant) or two. I do hope that all of my comments have not been too distracting to honest seekers. Your questions are also welcome at Biblecia.com to me, a Reformed Baptist (Southern Baptist).

    I’m glad, Mr. Kangaroodort, that you try to foster such honest dialog “That God may stop the plague.” Really. Come on, sir? It’s very clear how both sides work often times in this passive aggressiveness. At least on my site you’ll not read overt slurs against those I debate with in-house. I know I can’t post a response in the “X-Calvinist Corner.” Again, I’m here. I know. And may God bless you as well.

    Scripture interprets itself. I was attempting to point out a counter to Now Dimly’s comments which seem little like questions towards the end and more like common affirmations between you both.

    Follow me if you will. I will try not to rant in my “plague spreading.” Very nice BTW. I know you’re just following Mr. Wesley. The latter part of John 6 immediately surrounding our recent interactions here has many fake disciples walking away. I know they’re fake because they went away. (cf. 1 John 2:19). It’s in this light that much context is rendered to why Jesus speaks as He does. In light of their departure Jesus’ address to His own makes much more sense. John 6:37 says that all the Father gives Jesus will come. This was before the fake even show their hearts to the world and turn. Jesus always knew their hearts. In vs. 65, after the false converts turned away offended, Jesus reiterates with precision for the elect and us why exactly they’ve turned away. Why? They (those that departed) were not given to the Son. If they are one day found at the final judgment calling out to Jesus, “Lord, Lord” He will tell them He “never” knew them. He doesn’t stop them and do an altar call. All that the Father gives the Son will come. Those that are not won’t. Those that are not will turn away. All those given will come. Repeat: all those given will come. That all actually does mean all I trust. Sometimes all doesn’t mean all. Here it does. Their coming is sure because they’ve been given. This is to the Father’s glory we read-even their fruit.

    The giving of these mentioned individuals obviously precedes their coming. This is God’s calling as seen whenever a man actually repents and believes what he has heard. The “coming” then that Jesus speaks of here, rightly interpreted, is the repentance and faith that all believers exercise. “Coming” is coming in faith. This is the faith they find active in them through preaching and prayer. It is the light in which they can now see. Being born again is the entrance into that light. Whatever God may do in a man that goes before this, as He often does, is not necessarily the gift of life itself. Life’s a gift. It is no injection then, I feel, to say that this is precisely why faith itself is properly called a gift in Ephesians 2. It’s what’s illustrated in John 6. It is a gift not at all of yourself, but a gift of God. It isn’t something that needs to be “opened” because it’s internal and is life itself for us Lazaruses. No boasting only here. John 6:39-40 is also helpful in light of all of the latter of John 6 and these few points.

    Then, like my last comment would have you move to in your thoughts, recall John 17, particularly vs. 6 where the Spirit hones in the fact, with the 11 disciples who were surely given, that only the drawn in fact do come. Judases will turn away as foretold. Jesus chose them, as He said, and so they freely answered the call. The disciples, as was articulated to them in John 6, are the practical example of the truth demonstrated amidst the false believers. It was to make them rejoice. Only bad theology cries foul in light of Christ’s election of those who would “surely come.” They came having previously been given to the Son. They trust Him because they know He will not lose them. He said, “I will lose none of them.” I don’t doubt it. False converts will turn; not real ones. The God who saves keeps. Those given come. That’s clearly unseen election. They don’t come without faith. Faith is not from us. Lastly here-

    All the given (John 6 latter & as seen in John 11 with the disciples) surely come and cannot at all be lost. Put that together in Scripture with the fact that all men will not be saved because they’re not all given and Scripture interprets itself. I’m reading nothing into the text except another clear part of it. If all are drawn as you allege in prevenience? If the prevenient grace argument is in view, then all will come? If all that are given to Jesus will come to Jesus and we’re all given then we’ll all be saved. That’s universalism, not Christianity. If God’s salvation is random and thus wholly reduced to our cooperative faith and all are given then all men will come. No, my Arminian thinkers, all those given to the Son, “Will come.” He will surely raise them up on the last day. Are all men equally given? No. If they were then they’d all equally come at least at some point. Jesus has no preventing grace in His theology that leads to saving faith. All those given, or elected, will come. The disciples proved this and put flesh on this truth in their own day. He loved them to the end and they loved Him back. Their flesh profited nothing (John 6) but they were very much profited by the Father who was revealed to them by the Son who chose them. Jesus kept them in God’s word when they would not keep themselves. They would betray. They would doubt. He would redeem them. He loved them unlike He loved those who turned away from Him.

    As far as Dr. Grudem’s comments go, I see no difficulty beyond the normal everyday tensions of remembering that we work in real time with real people with real sins (theirs and ours) in real love under the sure sovereignty of God. We don’t play God. We know that God has a number that He’ll save. It’s as fixed as anything else. They will be saved. By all means we’re to work in His vineyard to save them. The patience of God has an end. It will not last forever. He will not always strive with man. Men need to hear that. Many atheists in our day have needed to hear it. I once need to hear it because I was an Arminian who felt I could be put in and out of grace at any time by sin. I didn’t know Jesus at all, not to say that that’s all Arminians. Many need to hear it. “Repent, you may not have tomorrow.” It might be a fact. It might not be. I don’t know. This in no way calls into question the sure works of God. If a man does not harden his heart as in the day of rebellion in hearing of the cross we should not but rejoice and call him to swift action. We put no stock in him as his own co-savior. If he’s alive he’s been made alive (Ephesians 1) together with Christ. We may have sown or watered, but we know God gave the increase. Both we, and he, are nothing. God alone is to be praised. We pray for him in support and affirmation in any way possible and do what God has ordered us to do in loving and welcoming discipleship. The gospel produces faith in the hearts of those given to the Son. They come having been given. Grudem knows we don’t have to “catch em” between 10:25 and 10:28 during the last song or else they might be damned. Thank God if someone gets saved in an altar call, but we’re not telemarketers playing a numbers game. That leads to bad things. We preach. Whosoever wills responds, and we disciple. This is Acts 13:48’s surrounding events exactly portrayed. If salvation is genuine it will endure. Jesus will surely raise that person up because they’ve been given. They are the foreknown and those surely to be glorified, Romans 8:29-30. This is certain, but no wise farmer would deny a growing crop what he knows it needs, and neither should we. In time, as Jesus said in Mark 4, it’ll be shown whether or not the seed was good in its production.

  318. John 6:44 says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” A recent comment pointed out that this verse does not say whether or not everyone who is drawn will come to him, just that no one can come unless they are drawn. While this certainly is true, I would like to point out that a few verses earlier, in John 6:37, Jesus does say “All that the Father gives me will come to me”. I guess the question to be answered is whether or not God giving someone to Jesus is the same as drawing them to him. It seems that it would be. Also Romans 8:30 says “those He called He also justified”. I believe that those whom God called are the same ones that He drew to himself – that it is just two different ways of saying the same thing. Would you agree with that? So if ALL He called are justified, and if ALL that are given to the Father will come to Jesus, then it seems that when Jesus says no one can come without being drawn by the Father, it would also follow that all who are drawn will come.

  319. I’m glad, Mr. Kangaroodort, that you try to foster such honest dialog “That God may stop the plague.” Really. Come on, sir?

    For the proper context of Wesley’s quote about the plague, see the following post:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/the-puritan-board/

    And it needs to be noted that Wesley’s words are extremely tame compared to what routinely comes out of the Calvinist camp concerning Arminianism. For example, take R.C. Sproul’s quote that,

    “Simply put, the tenets of Arminianism taste sweeter to our sinful human natures than those of other doctrinal systems.”

    From: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/01/16/the-five-dilemmas-of-calvinism-part-1/

    For more quotes that make Wesley’s quote look innocuous i comparison, see the following posts,

    http://wesleyanarminian.blogspot.com/2009/07/fun-calvinist-quotes-on-arminian.html

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/j-i-packer-calls-arminianism-an-intellectual-sin-of-infirmity/

    It’s very clear how both sides work often times in this passive aggressiveness. At least on my site you’ll not read overt slurs against those I debate with in-house.

    Overt slurs like saying, “There’s one of dozens of passages and teachings that stand in contrast to the humanistic insights read into Scripture through Arminianism. What’s the explain away of this? Whosoever will because all are drawn, right?”

    I know I can’t post a response in the “X-Calvinist Corner.” Again, I’m here. I know. And may God bless you as well.

    If you want to share about your journey away from Calvinism to a more Arminian theology, then you can certainly post on “X-Calvinist Corner”.

    All those given will come. Repeat: all those given will come.

    I agree. But that is not what you said before. You said all that are drawn will come. Big difference.

    That all actually does mean all I trust. Sometimes all doesn’t mean all. Here it does.

    I agree that all means all here. I like the convenient qualifier, though. It is interesting that when it suits your argument “all” certainly “must” mean “all”, but when it destroys Calvinism (Like all the passages that say Christ died for all, God desires all to be saved and to come to repentance, etc.), then “all” certainly “must” mean “some”, and not “all.” Oh, and what about “world” in John 6:32 and 6:51. Surely that should factor into how we interpret the rest of John 6.

    All the given (John 6 latter & as seen in John 11 with the disciples) surely come and cannot at all be lost. Put that together in Scripture with the fact that all men will not be saved because they’re not all given and Scripture interprets itself.

    We simply understand these passages differently. Here are some comments I wrote a while back that might help you understand why I simply do not find the Calvinist claims concerning John 6 compelling:

    **********************************************

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

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

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

    …..

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

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

    “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:20, 21, NASB)
    If we interpret this as Calvinists (and some Arminians) do as a simple passage on depravity, we run into a serious problem. The text says that “whoever does what is true comes to the light”.

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

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

    The secondary application is simply that those who are willing to hear from the Father (however He may teach them) will be drawn by the Father to Christ. In our situation, this happens by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. The principle is similar, but it is a different time and a different situation. We come to the Father through the Son, while in a very real sense the Jews of Jesus’ time came to the Son through the Father and were then able to take part in the new dispensation when only those joined to the Son can remain in right relationship with the Father. Here are a few things I wrote on drawing that might help shed light on what I am saying (how there is both a primary and secondary application),
    Not of God” [in John 8] simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims. Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45). As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45).

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

    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).”

    *****************************************

    Here is a very in depth look at passages that Calvinist think teach unconditional election and irresistible grace in John:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/282

    It is also interesting that in all you say about John 6, you neglected to mention John 6:45 or how that might factor into a proper interpretation of John 6:37, 44, etc.

    And of course, John 12:32 plainly says that Christ draws “all.” But no doubt that will just be another example of where “all” conveniently does not mean “all”. After all, that would ruin your entire argument.

    If the prevenient grace argument is in view, then all will come?

    No, since the passage doesn’t say that all who are drawn will come, as has been pointed out to you.

    If all that are given to Jesus will come to Jesus and we’re all given then we’ll all be saved.

    We aren’t all “given” so your argument doesn’t follow.

    Jesus has no preventing grace in His theology that leads to saving faith.

    So you assert.

    All those given, or elected, will come.

    Sorry, the passage says nothing of a pretemproal “election.” That is something you have read into the text.

    The disciples proved this and put flesh on this truth in their own day. He loved them to the end and they loved Him back. Their flesh profited nothing (John 6) but they were very much profited by the Father who was revealed to them by the Son who chose them.

    Once again, you are reading your theology into the passage. The context makes it pretty clear that Christ is saying that the non-spiritual understanding of His teaching profits nothing (vs. 52, 60). The verse must be understood in context. It is about the difference in receiving Christ’s words with spiritual understanding, and receiving His words with a natural understanding (which would imply cannibalism). Likewise, Christ’s literal “flesh” can profit them nothing, but His flesh received spiritually, that is in the context of a faith relationship with Christ through whom one receives true spiritual sustenance (the bread of life), “gives life”. To emphasize that the flesh profits nothing in the most absolute sense that you seem to want to take it would make us have to say that the “flesh” of Christ profits nothing as well (John 6:31). But we realize that the flesh of Christ profits much. However, this teaching on His flesh giving life must be understood spiritually, which is the exact point Christ later makes when He says that the “flesh” (i.e. unspiritual understanding of His words) profits nothing. Christ is not equating natural man enabled to believe by the Spirit and word of Christ with the “flesh” that “profits nothing.” That is reading something quite foreign into the text.

    Jesus kept them in God’s word when they would not keep themselves. They would betray. They would doubt. He would redeem them. He loved them unlike He loved those who turned away from Him.

    So Judas who was “given” to Christ was also “redeemed?”

    As far as Dr. Grudem’s comments go, I see no difficulty beyond the normal everyday tensions of remembering that we work in real time with real people with real sins (theirs and ours) in real love under the sure sovereignty of God. We don’t play God. We know that God has a number that He’ll save. It’s as fixed as anything else. They will be saved. By all means we’re to work in His vineyard to save them. The patience of God has an end. It will not last forever. He will not always strive with man. Men need to hear that.

    But none of this addresses what Grudem actually says. Maybe you need to go back and re-read the quote.

    I once need to hear it because I was an Arminian who felt I could be put in and out of grace at any time by sin.

    Well, that is not what Arminianism teaches, so you must not have been an Arminian (though you may have been a non-Calvinist)

    Many need to hear it. “Repent, you may not have tomorrow.” It might be a fact. It might not be.

    Again, this misses the specifics of the language that Grudem uses. It is just dancing around his words, without actually grappling with them.

    We put no stock in him as his own co-savior.

    Are you suggesting that Arminians do? If so, that is another gross misrepresentation of what Arminians believe. A “slur”, if you will.

    They come having been given. Grudem knows we don’t have to “catch em” between 10:25 and 10:28 during the last song or else they might be damned.

    Perhaps you don’t need to do anything at all (if Calvinism is true).

    Thank God if someone gets saved in an altar call, but we’re not telemarketers playing a numbers game. That leads to bad things.

    Bad things that God decreed from all eternity to happen just as they do. I simply cannot figure out why Calvinists get all hyped up over how the gospel is presented. See this post for more detail: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/decisional-regeneration/

    This is Acts 13:48′s surrounding events exactly portrayed.

    The context actually works against the Calvinist interpretation of Acts 13:48,

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/acts-1348-two-non-calvinist-views/

    If salvation is genuine it will endure.

    A lot of really big problems with that claim. See my 13 Part series on Perseverance of the Saints for more on that:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

    They are the foreknown and those surely to be glorified, Romans 8:29-30.

    See these posts which address Romans 8:29-30 to various degrees,

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/an-apparently-not-so-brief-response-to-c-michael-patton-on-rom-9/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/corporate-election-quotes/

    Well, you have had your say. Obviously, we do not agree. Since this is not the place for debate, we need not proceed, unless you want to very specifically address Grudem’s quote. I would be interested to hear you grapple with the actual language. Here it is again for easy reference:

    “The application to our lives is quite evident: if God gives anyone a desire to repent and trust in Christ, he or she should not delay and should not harden his or her heart (cf. Heb. 3:7–8; 12:17). This ability to repent and desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and it will not last forever.” (p. 498)

    If you have issue with some of the posts I directed you to, you can leave comments at those posts (but please make sure you read the post carefully and completely before doing so). The link to your blog is here as well (notice I didn’t “censor” it), so anyone can go to your blog to see what else you have to say about why Calvinism is so Biblical and Arminianism is not.

    May God Bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth.

  320. Sally,

    See my comments to Joseph above. I hope to address your questions specifically sometime this weekend. Did you see my response on Piper and the order of salvation? Do understand now that Piper’s quotes do not solve the problem as you suggested?

  321. Joseph,

    I wouldn’t consider myself an Arminian. I’m simply trying to take an honest look at these important doctrines since I obviously missed some of the implications of them when I originally accepted Calvinism, something I did based on some limited teachings by Sproul and not based on personal in depth Bible study. I’m finding now that the tiny doubts I had accepted are still bugging me (the ones Ben just pointed out, such as God loving “all” is just one small example, but there are too many questions to post even in this thread which will necessitate personal study).

    My main bone to pick with the Grudem quote was this: He is speaking to “us” (could be believers, could be unbelievers–I know we preach the gospel to everyone). He says that the “ability to repent and desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and it will not last forever.” Several chapter later he talks about effectual calling and regeneration. Is he speaking to believers or to all? If to all, then those who will not be called and regenerated have an “ability to repent” and a “desire to trust” but they can’t because God has not elected them. That is cockamamie.

    Yes, God calls all men to repent, but how can the reprobate have any true “ability” to repent if they have not ability given by God? That’s all I was saying. I’m sure Mr. Grudem could clarify, perhaps it was an oversight while writing a near 1300 page book. But whatever the theology, this seems like bad logic.

    You guys are asking very good questions and this isn’t something any Christian should just cave into overnight. Anyone asking such questions should give themselves to much prayer and study on the matter. I have no problem being undecided again for a time because I know the faithfulness of our Father.

  322. Now Dimly,

    I appreciate and admire your courage and commitment to re-examine your convictions and presuppositions in light of Scripture. That is a hard thing to do. May God bless you and guide you through this process. There is nothing to fear in discovering truth.

    Feel free to ask more questions. I will do my best to answer them.

  323. Now Dimly,

    Here is another confusing quote from a well respected Calvinist, Arthur W. Pink,

    “In the past, dear reader, there have been thousands who were just as confident that they had been genuinely saved and were truly trusting in the merits of the finished work of Christ to take them safely through to Heaven, as you may be; nevertheless, they are now in the torments of Hell. Their confidence was a carnal one; their “faith,” no better than that which the demons have. Their faith was but a natural one which rested on the bare letter of Scripture. It was not a supernatural one, wrought in the heart by God. They were too confident that their faith was a saving one, to thoroughly, searchingly, frequently, test it by the Scriptures, to discover whether or no it was bringing forth those fruits which are inseparable from the faith of God’s elect. If they read an article like this, they proudly concluded that it belonged to some one else. So cocksure were they that they were born again so many years ago, they refused to heed the command of 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Prove your own selves.” And now it is too late. They wasted their day of opportunity, and the “blackness of darkness” is their portion forever.(Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews- bold emphasis mine)”

    This comes from a post I wrote on how the inevitable perseverance doctrine of Calvinism undermines Biblical assurance. You can see that post here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-13-salvation-assurance/

    How could the reprobate possibly waste their “day of opportunity”? If God chose from eternity to pass over them and deny them the grace to believe and be saved, then there was never any real “opportunity” at all. It is also nonsense to say “now it is too late.” No, it was too late from the day they were born since there was never any hope or possibility for them to be saved. Many more inconsistent quotes like this one could be quoted from prominent Calvinists.

  324. Do you think that John 1:12, 13 is about being born again? I think it is. And if it is, then it seems pretty clear that faith precedes the new birth, and you would really have to do some theological voodoo here to say that regeneration precedes faith in this context.

    All who receive (believe in) the Word are given the right to become children of God. You cannot say that we are regenerated first so that we can believe, so that we can then become children. That doesnt make sense since regeneration is (to me) both becoming a new creature and a child of God. You also can’t say that this is adoption, or else I don’t think John would have used the word “born,” for the two concepts are quite different (born and adopted).

    If John is speaking of regeneration, then this goes hand in hand with Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3, and there doesn’t seem to be any real sense to push for regeneration preceding faith–especially since 3:14 clearly says practically the same thing 1:12 says: believe and you will have life/become a child of God. (I think John 3:8 is used to show that regeneration precedes faith because “since we have no control over our new birth then it must happen before we can exercise faith,” but that Calvinistic interpretation leaves me doubtful using this passage alone). Hope I made sense there!

  325. Ben,

    I’ve been reviewing the inability of the sinner this week and was wondering what your understanding was of those who are in the flesh (Romans 8:1-8). I take the passage to be talking about someone who is unsaved since they do not have the Spirit (v. 9). If my understanding is correct, then how would you answer the assertion that the sinner is so depraved that he cannot do anything in the direction of God based on verses 7,8 in particular? I listened to a sermon on depravity and this was one of the texts used to show the need for regeneration to precede faith. Thanks!

  326. Now Dimly,

    Romans 8 is not, in my opinion, addressing the inability to believe the gospel, but the inability to obey the law of God in a way that is pleasing to God. Only through the indwelling of the Spirit is that possible, since the Sprint gives us the power to obey God’s law and live for Him. Paul makes this point in Romans 6 and 8. But the Spirit is received by faith. So this passage just isn’t a very good one for inability with regards to believing the gospel. That is not what Paul is discussing here.

    However, I do hold to total depravity. All Arminians do. But that does not mean regeneration is what is needed for the depraved person to be able to believe. Arminians hold to resistible prevenient grace. We believe that through the conviction and power of the Spirit and the word, God enables totally depraved sinners to believe. So both Arminians and Calvinist see a necessary work of God to make faith possible. The difference is that Arminians believe this work is prevenient grace and that it is resistible (it doesn’t irresistibly cause faith, but enables faith), and Calvinist believe this work is regeneration and it irresistibly causes faith (once the sinner is regenerated, he cannot help but to believe-faith is guaranteed). But you have already seen the many problems with placing regeneration before faith.

    Here are a few posts to help you understand prevenient grace:

    http://www.fwponline.cc/v18n2/v18n2witzki.html

    http://www.fwponline.cc/v19n1/v19n1switzki.html

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Kevin-jackson-prevenient-grace-explained

    Earlier in the comments thread, you can read a discussion I had with someone about prevenient grace. The discussion starts here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/questions/#comment-1575

    And here is a post that will help give you a better understanding of Romans 8, based on Ezekiel 36:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/ezekiel-3626-27/

    Hope that helps.

  327. Cool thanks. Another text used in that sermon was 1 Corinthians 2:14

    “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

    The logic is that since we can’t understand spiritual things then we can’t believe I suppose. I’ll have review said sermon again.

  328. Now Dimly,

    Actually, that is another lousy proof text for inability to believe the gospel. Paul is actually talking about immature Christians in that passage, and not unbelievers (1 Cor. 3:1). They are “infants in Christ” and not unbelievers. Here is a good post that addresses this passage as well:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/addressing-dominics-response-to-the-purpose-of-regeneration-in-calvinism/

    It is a debate, but 1 Cor. 2 comes up in the debate as a proof text for needing the indwelling Spirit in order to believe the gospel, which is plainly unscriptural since the Spirit is received by faith (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14).

    The part about 1 Cor. 2 comes up pretty early in the post.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  329. I read this last post and some of the comments on the second rebuttal so far. I think Dominic had a pretty weak argument and yours seemed to be right on as I compared it all with the contexts involved. But I’m still hung up on 1 Cor 2:14 and 1 Cor 3:1 since Paul uses two different words in Greek for “natural person” and “people of the flesh.” The context of verses 14-16 seems to be immature vs. mature, but I guess it seems hard for me to get away from that old interpretation that Natural=not saved or without the Spirit. How could deeper spiritual truths be foolish to someone who is saved?

    And I’m treading lightly in 3:1-4 because of the old “carnal Christian” doctrine (which I believe to be a misinterpretation…this was big when I was in Campus Crusade for Christ 20 years ago–and it didn’t make much sense then–; i.e. people could live however they wanted and still be saved). It’s clear here that Paul speaks of immaturity and not sensual living. I just can’t understand why Paul wouldn’t have used the same term in both places.

    In the past month, the more I hear arguments using Scripture out of context the more irritated I get. I mean, maybe Scripture could teach a specific Calvinist doctrine, but not in the way I’m hearing major passages being misused. Then I read some comments about certain Calvinists not believing in regeneration preceding faith and was thrown for another loop. I thought it was pretty black and white and I was hoping for an easy landing on one side or the other (Arminian or Calvinist)! I’ll just keep seeking the Lord and trust him to lead me.

  330. Now Dimly,

    You wrote,

    The context of verses 14-16 seems to be immature vs. mature, but I guess it seems hard for me to get away from that old interpretation that Natural=not saved or without the Spirit. How could deeper spiritual truths be foolish to someone who is saved?

    The context is about believers who are immature because they are not fully submitting to the Spirit. I don’t think this is such an uncommon thing. They have the Spirit within them, but are not yielding to the Spirit as they should, which would bring them to a more spiritually mature state. So in a sense they are acting like men without the Spirit because they are not yielding to the Spirit’s leading. Some translations have it as “unspiritual”, which probably better reflects Paul’s meaning in describing these immature Christians.

    And I’m treading lightly in 3:1-4 because of the old “carnal Christian” doctrine (which I believe to be a misinterpretation…this was big when I was in Campus Crusade for Christ 20 years ago–and it didn’t make much sense then–; i.e. people could live however they wanted and still be saved)

    This in no way has reference to the horrible carnal Christian doctrine. These Christians are guilty of favoritism, and not the gross sins that are often attributed to “carnal Christians.” In attaching their loyalty to certain Christian teachers above others, they are robbing themselves of what God wants to give them, as if God can only speak to them through their favorite apostle or teacher, etc. This is stunting their growth and hurting the church.

    Then I read some comments about certain Calvinists not believing in regeneration preceding faith and was thrown for another loop.

    I would say that there are very few Calvinists who do not believe that regeneration precedes faith. However, they still see God’s grace as irresistible in that God just causes faith irresistibly in certain select sinners. God gives them the gift of faith, but does not need to regenerate them first in order to do so. But again, such Calvinists presently represent a very small minority.

    God Bless.

  331. Thank you for providing this forum. I find the discussions stimulating, and it is encouraging to me that such discussions can take place in an uplifting manner rather than with derogatory tones.

    I’ve noticed as I’ve studied throughout the years that with much of the developments in the past, be they governmental application, scientific, mathematical, etc., that many have been made by men / women of the Calvinist persuasion. [I’m currently reviewing the book by James Nickel, MATHMATICS: IS GOD SILENT? In it he references Reijer Hooykaas and Rousas J. Rushdoony as recognizing “the indispensable role of Protestantism, especially Calvinist Puritanism, in the rise of modern science” (p. 130).] Certainly, God has used people even from totally different religions to advance His kingdom, but I’m wondering if there is a differing worldview present in Calvinism that is not found in Arminianism, for instance, which brings about such an outcome? Although I understand that such is not consistent even within “Reformed” camps, is it their millennial view? Is it a view regarding the dominion mandate? Is it a certain perspective about God being involved in everything rather than separating the sacred from the secular? Do they tend to be more of a “thinking” camp? Why? As one who doesn’t consider herself a Calvinist, I agree with many of these worldviews, but I’m wondering if Calvinists put more emphasis on it…and actually put it in practice more practically? Thank you for your thoughts, and again, your encouragement!

  332. Lori,

    I really do not know how to answer your question, beyond mere speculation. Sorry.

  333. Have you ever come across folks who are neither Arminian nor Calvinist? I’m talking to a guy in Costa Rica who seems to be a KJV only church, but they use Way of the Master and their focus seems to be evangelism. I asked him about his teaching on depravity and he didn’t comment. His teachings imply that sinful man will repent when they hear the law preached.

  334. Yes. There are many who are non-Calvinists but are not really Arminian either. Typically, they would be people who do not hold to total depravity or the need for God’s enabling grace to believ the gospel. Such people would be either Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian, though many such people have little knowledge of such theological labels.

  335. Logically, there really isn’t a lot of room between Calvinism or Arminianism. The difference really comes down to the question of irresistible grace. If you decide God’s grace irresistibly overcomes our fallen nature’s hostility to God, you’re a Calvinist. Thinking through the rest of the points logically will eventually bring you to accepting the rest. If you decide that God overcomes the resistance of sinful nature enough that a person is able to choose to respond with faith, or choose not to, you’ll end up Arminian on most or of the 5 points (As I understand it, it is possible to accept eternal security but still be Arminian).

    I see plenty of examples of people claiming to be neither. One way is to claim a middle ground. Redefining terms enough can create an apparent middle ground. Logically examined, it will be either clearly Calvinist or Arminian. Another way is to go the semi-Pelagian or Pelagian route. It’s been recognized as heretical for 1500 years or so, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

    Your description is too short to be sure, but expecting people to repent when the law is preached sounds a far cry from the gospel to my ears. Not that people might not repent, but that repentance in and of itself doesn’t save anyone. Salvation is through faith in the substitutionary death of Christ and accepting His rightousness as your rightousness. Repentance is a part of that (I believe), but not primarily what leads to our salvation.

    My thoughts…

    Paul

  336. Paul,

    While it is true that many who claim to be neither Calvinist nor Arminian are actually one or the other, it is also true that many are either Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian in their beliefs and, therefore, neither Calvinist nor Arminian. Your comments seem to recognize this, but I just wanted to add this clarification in case you were misunderstood. The answer to Now Dimly’s question is still “yes”, since there are many who are either Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian in their thinking.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  337. Completely agreed Ben. Thanks for the clarification. I did intend to communicate precisely that.

    -Paul

  338. I wanted to follow up on something else Paul said that I think might be misunderstood. First, I think “Way of the Master” actually leans a little towards Calvinism, if anything (though it doesn’t necessarily come out in their methodology). For them, preaching and confronting people with the law brings a person to realize that they are guilty and condemned before God. In that way, it leads them to the realization that they need a Savior. So the law is what leads them to Christ (just as the apostle Paul taught). I think this can be a great way to do evangelism, but I disagree that it is the only valid or effective way (as “Way of the Master” sometimes seems to imply).

    However, I don’t think they would say that repentance based on law is what brings salvation, or anything like that. However, the Bible is very clear that repentance is necessary for salvation and forgiveness (Acts 3:19; 11:18; 2 Peter 3:9, etc.), but that repentance is focused on turning away from sin and towards Christ to receive forgiveness and salvation. Also, while righteousness is imputed by faith, the specific object of our faith does not need to be on imputed righteousness. Rather, it is simple trust in Christ to save us, even if we do not fully understand how God goes about saving us or making us righteous. Again, I don’t think that Paul necessarily meant to imply such things, and I don’t want to minimize his helpful comments, but I just wanted to avoid any potential misunderstandings.

  339. Ben you said, “Such people would be either Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian, though many such people have little knowledge of such theological labels.”

    This might be why the person I’m talking to doesn’t seem to give me clear answers about doctrinal questions. He’s the one who challenged me a month ago on the doctrine of election and got me rethinking Calvinism. I wanted to prove him wrong since he said that Calvinism was wrong. Look where it got me!

    Paul, I did understand you. I didn’t know where I stood for years, mainly due to a lack of theological teaching and years of living like (being?) an unbeliever. In recent years I was so into Way of the Master that that was the focus of my doctrine, and it sounds like the same may be true for my friend.

    Ben said, “First, I think “Way of the Master” actually leans a little towards Calvinism, if anything (though it doesn’t necessarily come out in their methodology).”

    Ray Comfort has said he’s a Arminian-ist…he doesn’t seem to believe in unconditional election, but he holds to perseverance (thus his teaching True and False Conversion). Most of their other guys seem to be Calvinist (Kirk Cameron goes to MacArthur’s church, Tod Friel teaches about Calvinist doctrines on Wretched). I think they keep a good balance between repentance and faith but keep silent about other doctrines of salvation as far as their ministry goes. I recall Ray Comfort saying, “How can a man repent if he doesn’t know what sin is?” Thus their focus on preaching law, then grace.

    It just kind of bothers me when people latch onto it (like myself) without thinking through the rest of Biblical doctrine, which is so rich and glorious. In speaking with my new friend he seemed to give me a hard time if I wasn’t going out of my way to preach to everyone. But there are equally important doctrines like loving one’s wife as Christ loved the church, training one’s children God’s ways, working heartily in the secular world to be a good witness where I face losing my job if I preach unwisely. All these things also glorify God and I don’t think we’re all called to stand on a street corner and preach (though I sure love doing that).

  340. Now Dimly,

    Thanks for the info. on WOM. I love your last paragraph.

  341. do you think john calvin defended unlimited atonement?

  342. wanderson,

    I’m not sure. It’s been awhile since I have read much Calvin. I have read things from him that would seem to indicate that God both loved all people with a desire to save them, as well as things that would seem to indicate that the atonement was for all as well. But, if I remember right, there are other writings of his that seem to say, or at least imply, otherwise. For now, all I can say is that he seemed inconsistent on the point. I will try to look into it more when I get the chance.

    I do know that R.T Kendall and other’s have argued strongly that Calvin did hold to unlimited atonement (making Calvin a 4 Point Calvinist!). Here is a good little post on the subject: http://arminiantoday.com/2012/07/01/brief-thoughts-on-calvins-extent-of-the-atonement/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  343. Ben…I wonder if you would shoot me an email (my address should be on your dashboard). I have some further questions for you.

  344. Kangaroodort,
    thanks for answering me. I am brazilian and in this moment an ex-calvinist too. I am not a arminian yet, because I decided study a lot both side in order to be in peace with God and your blog has helped me too much. Then, I have other question (actually, I have a lot of them), but now goes one:

    How understand 2Tm2:10 in a corporate view of election ?? I read the opinion of Marshall and he says that the text relates to the work of Paul in a favor of actual belivers helping them to a final salvation. The problem I have with this interpretation is
    1. The word “also” don’t fit well with this view. It appears to me that paul wants that the elects be saved as he is
    2. All the context of prision and exhortation seems to me that Paul is reffering to the proclamation of the gospel
    God Bless

  345. Hi,

    Regarding freewill, I remembered a question:

    Why would someone choose Hell over Heaven?

    How should Arminians answer this one? 🙂

    Thanks.

  346. wanderson,

    Here is a quick answer I gave someone else on the passage,

    First, it is problematic for the Calvinist position since the elect are either already saved or certain to be saved in Calvinism. Yet Paul’s words indicate uncertainty. It is similar to when Peter warns his readers to make their election sure. I think the passage fits better with the corporate view. Paul is speaking about those who are in Christ by faith and are therefore “the elect” presently. But since election does not guarantee final salvation, since those who are in the elect body can still be broken off through unbelief (Rom. 11), Paul is speaking about his struggle to keep the elect in the faith until they reach final salvation. So Paul’s focus is on perseverance in faith and not on how one becomes elect or at what point one can be considered elect, though his words imply that election is based on current faith in Christ and not on a secret eternal selection of certain sinners to eventually come to faith. Hope that helps.

    So it looks like I basically agree with Marshall on this passage. I don’t understand your comment about “also”. I don’t see why we would need that in the text at all. I actually do think the context bears out the interpretation I have offered here as Paul goes on to specifically speak about endurance in faith to avoid being ultimately “disowned” by God if we fail to “endure.” (vv. 11-13)

    If you still have questions, let me know.

  347. Now Dimly,

    I will e-mail sometime this afternoon.

  348. rex,

    I will get to your question later today, though I may need some qualification on what you are asking.

  349. I agree with Ben on 2 Tim 2:10. Paul frequently expresses concern that his churches will not persevere in faith and so perish. And while salvation can be thought of as a present possession in Paul and the NT, it is also frequently thought of as a future event or possession. Marshall’s view is strongly supported by the fact that the vast majority of uses of “the elect” etc. clearly refers to the group of those who already believe, to those who are already in covenant relationship with God. That is the normal usage. So there needs to be some clear indication that we have a different usage here. But there really isn’t any. The statement goes along naturally with Paul’s concern for the salvation of his churches/converts. For example, he tells the Corinthian church, “if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation” (2 Cor 1:6; NASB). Note the similarity; Paul endures affliction for the salvation of those who already believe. And in 1 Tim 4:16, Paul tells Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (NASB) So Timothy is to labor for the salvation of himself and those he pastored, believers.

  350. Hello, Ben. Can you recommend articles on Rom.8:29,30? especially in light of corporate election. and another thing. can I translate some of your articles into russian, and publish on my website? ))

  351. Vladimir,

    Absolutely you can translate anything at this site into Russian and publish them on your website. As for Rom. 8:29, 30, have you seen the post on Corporate Election Quotes? Here is the link: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/corporate-election-quotes/ The last section by Walls and Dongell address the passage some (though I did not quote their more extensive treatment).

    In short, Rom. 8:29-30 uses plural corporate language (“those”), so it fits very nicely with the corporate view. Walls and Dongell do a good job describing how this works. One important point is the use of “called” in the passage. At the end of the post on “Corporate Election Quotes,” I link to a post that will direct you to two articles on how called/calling should be understood in this passage. Unfortunately, the site where those articles are found is under construction so those articles are temporarily unavailable. But you should keep checking until they are, as they are excellent articles. The main gist of them is that “called/calling” should be taken primarily in a naming sense, rather than in the sense of an invitation. For example, you are “called” Vladimir. That doesn’t mean you were invited to anything. It has reference to your naming. That is the same thing with the Biblical concept. It has reference to God naming a people for Himself. Examples of this are found in Rom. 9:7 (“reckoned” or “named”) and 9:25,

    “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one.”

    That is the same way “called” should be understood in Rom 8:30. Those who are “called” are those who are “named” as God’ people, because they share the name of Christ, being untied to Him. Their calling (naming) is in their identity with Christ, just as their election is in Christ (Eph. 1:4). It is another way of describing them as belonging to God and Christ. It is describing them as Christians, as they share in Christ’s name through faith union/identification with Him.

    Hope that helps,

    Ben

  352. rex,

    You wrote,

    Regarding freewill, I remembered a question:

    Why would someone choose Hell over Heaven?

    How should Arminians answer this one?

    Not sure what you are looking for here. The most basic answer is it depends on the individual and how they exercise their free will, how they weigh their motives and how they reason on the issue. The point is that they reason freely, and there can be many reasons for the choice. Many wouldn’t see it so much as a choice between heaven and hell, but a choice between whether heaven and hell are even real. People make decisions for all kinds of reasons. Arminianism doesn’t deny this. We only assert that the reasoning process is free and not necessitated or predetermined by God. God gives us the power of self determination in that regard and allows us to decide based on whatever reasons or motives we deem best to make the final decision.

    Arminians simply say that when the gospel is presented, God enables the sinner to trust in Christ and be saved. But that enablement is not irresistible. Therefore, it does not guarantee the result of faith (as in Calvinism). Therefore, though enabled to believe, the sinner can still choose not to believe and reject the gospel. The reasons for that decision can be as varying as the people making the decision.

    Hope that helps.

    Ben

  353. Thank you. ))

  354. Hi Ben,

    I am just reviewing some stuff, and the question just came off my head. 🙂

    So when we say a person is “enabled” (to believe) he/she doesn’t “understand” or believe heaven or hell and eternal damnation yet?

  355. Hi,
    I have a friend who thinks that faith is a gift from God and that we have no part in whether we place our faith in Christ.
    He used 2 verses to back this up:

    Hebrews 12:2 ” looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (ESV).
    It looks like Jesus is the one who originates our faith.

    and

    Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (ESV)

    So here God assigns faith to each person.

    Do you think these verses say what he thinks they say, or is there another way of looking at them?

    Thanks,

    Ken

  356. rex,

    You wrote,

    So when we say a person is “enabled” (to believe) he/she doesn’t “understand” or believe heaven or hell and eternal damnation yet?

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Many are convinced (convicted) of such truths and enabled to believe them, but still reject them (that is why this enablement is resistible). They may simply resist the reality of heaven and hell, even though the Holy Spirit has enabled them to believe it (i.e. they “suppress the truth”, cf. Rom. 1:18-22).

    Take the example of a smoker. The smoker has been give all the information he needs to quit smoking . He has been convinced that smoking is unhealthy and could kill him, cause cancer, emphysema, etc. But even though he has this knowledge and the means available to quit, he freely decides to continue smoking anyway, for whatever reasons. He might convince himself that he won’t get cancer. He might convince himself that he just doesn’t need to worry about it. He might decide that he will quit someday, but continue to indulge for awhile. There could be all kinds of reasons why he doesn’t quit. Others, given the same information, would choose to quit. It really is up to the person, and the person will decide based on whatever desires and motives the person wants to place the most weight on, or value the most (that is the God given power of free will).

    The point is, just because someone is shown the truth, and even realizes the truth, doesn’t mean that person will yield to the truth or act in accordance with the truth and enablement they have received. Again, that is why the enablement is resistible, rather than irresistible.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  357. Ken,

    No, I do not think these verses teach what your friend is suggesting. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to address it adequately tonight. I will try to get to it later this week.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  358. Sorry about that…

    I was going to ask if you could comment on Calvinism’s form of determinism. Calvinist Curt Daniel has a teaching on Predestination (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/histtheocalvin.html )and within the first 10 minutes mentions that its not a blind determinism like fatalism, but he actually says that Calvinism redefines determinism. I know you have said Calvinism is deterministic, but they would deny the accusations of Arminianism in these regards.

    I’m working through how (according to Calvinism) God can determine all things and yet God isn’t responsible for determining sin; man can still utilize real choice, yet somehow man can’t have the ability to believe and God will still hold him accountable for his sins which God determined (but not in a blind fatalism kind of way). I can smell an inconsistency but can’t quite see how they get around it. Is it the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity? Daniel seems to be saying that man can choose but he can’t choose…God determines all things, but not all things…says God is sovereign, but that’s not where the logic leads.

  359. Ken,

    Briefly. On Hebrews 12:2, it is true that Christ is the perfecter of our faith, but there is no reason to think that He perfects our faith irresistibly. Indeed, just the opposite is plainly implied as it is the reason we are to “look to” Him and “throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles”, that we might “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

    Now, if Christ irresistibly causes faith in us and irresistibly causes us to continue in the faith (or perfects our faith), such language becomes rather pointless, and so do the warnings throughout Hebrews and the NT as a whole. It would be like warning someone hooked to a respirator to “keep breathing.”

    He is the “founder/pioneer” of our faith as He is the object of our faith and His life and death is the foundation of our faith. His life of endurance is the example we must look to in order to find the courage and strength to endure our own struggle (12:2-4)

    Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

    This verse has specific reference to spiritual giftings given to believers. It has nothing to do with unbelievers becoming believers, and again it does not imply that such giftings (including various levels of faith) are irresistible. As is the case with Hebrews 12:2, just reading the passage in context should be enough to see that this verse is being improperly used as a Calvinist proof text (12:1-8).

    Let me know if you still have questions.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  360. Now Dimly,

    You wrote,

    and within the first 10 minutes mentions that its not a blind determinism like fatalism, but he actually says that Calvinism redefines determinism. I know you have said Calvinism is deterministic, but they would deny the accusations of Arminianism in these regards.

    I don’t know when I will get to listen to this, but no Arminian would claim that Calvinist determinism is “blind fatalism.” However, Calvinism is absolutely deterministic. Again, I have not listened the audios, but if he is saying that Calvinists do not hold to determinism, then he is dead wrong. Now, he may personally deny determinism, but that is not in harmony with historic Calvinism. Even Hendryx, the founder of Monergism.com, admits that Calvinism is thoroughly deterministic, and even makes the point that “compatibilism” is also fully deterministic:

    “Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism), is the belief that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). It should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism – be clear that neither soft nor hard determinism believes man has a free will.” (bold emphasis mine)

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Free-Will/Compatibilism/

    I’m working through how (according to Calvinism) God can determine all things and yet God isn’t responsible for determining sin; man can still utilize real choice, yet somehow man can’t have the ability to believe and God will still hold him accountable for his sins which God determined (but not in a blind fatalism kind of way). I can smell an inconsistency but can’t quite see how they get around it.

    I’m afraid it isn’t something you can “work through” and it isn’t something they can ever really “get around” as it is simply incoherent. That is why Calvinists like Patton put such a premium on supposed “tensions” and “mysteries”, and that is why Calvinist theologians like Grudem make the sort of incoherent statements that caused you to rightly question Calvinism in the first place.

    Is it the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity? Daniel seems to be saying that man can choose but he can’t choose…God determines all things, but not all things…says God is sovereign, but that’s not where the logic leads.

    All they can do is affirm contradictions and mutually exclusive concepts as somehow being acceptable “apparent” contradictions, or redefine things (like fee will) in order to get rid of the “tension” (i.e. contradiction). There is simply no other way to “deal” with such obviously self-refuting nonsense.

    Hope that helps.

  361. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for your response.

    One followup: I can see that “faith” in Romans 12:3 is not referring to saving faith. My friend, however, is hung up on the word “faith”. He asks, “Well, if it’s not faith that saves, then what could it be? Why would Paul use a word that seems to be used as saving faith in most other places, but then use the same word to mean something else?”

    Can you think of another word to use in place of “faith” that would give perhaps give a clearer picture of what Paul is saying? Or perhaps a paraphrase that might make the meaning more clear?

    Thanks again.

    Ken

  362. The highly respected Romans commentator C.E.B. Cranfield gives the most likely understanding of Rom 12:3, namely that it refers to faith in Christ as the standard by which we are to measure ourselves (“measure of faith” can carry the meaning in Greek “standard of measure, namely, faith”). Rather than thinking of ourselves more highly than fellow believers or comparing ourselves with them, we are to think of ourselves in accordance with the faith that we all share, which is the standard God has assigned to each one us for our estimation of oneself. This accords much better with the context, in which Paul is not wanting to give a reason for thinking of oneself more or less highly according to the quantity or quality of one’s faith in comparison to others. He is arguing for unity and humility. It would be like, if SEA members were arguing about who was the most most knowledgeable among us, and the leadership called on us not to think of ourselves too highly, but to think of ourselves by this standard, that we are all members of SEA, which unites us all and places us all on an equal footing.

  363. Ken,

    I had never heard the explanation given by Arminian, but I think it is very persuassive having heard it. However, one example of a gifting of faith that is not saving is in 1 Cor. 12:9, in the context of verses 4-11.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  364. Yes, there is a special gift of faith that Paul talks about in 1 Cor 12, which many think is God giving someone special confidence that something is his will and so enabling them to believe him for that thing.

    As for the interpretation I gave, Cranfield convincingly argues that if Paul were referring to different levels of faith that church members are supposed to think of themselves based on, this implies comparing themselves with others and thinking of themselves more or less highly on that basis, the very opposite thing he seems to be trying to accomplish. One could point to the diversity of gifts Paul mentions in 1 Cor 12 to try and support a different levels of faith interpretation. But those are different gifts, not different levels of faith. Each should exercise his gift in accordance with, literally, the faith (the faith we all share) (or even if we think of it as in accordance with each one’s faith, it would still be best taken as basic Christian faith, which every believer has by definition).

  365. Thanks for the answers. Another question:

    How do you answer the argument appeling for the creation of a new nature(that love the light) as a necessity of coming to christ the calvinist use in John 3.19-21?

  366. Ben and Arminian

    Thanks for your responses. Very helpful they were!

    And great website, too. I’m learning quite a bit from the different articles.

    All the best

    Ken

  367. wanderson,

    I should get to your question on John 3:19-21 this afternoon. God Bless.

  368. wanderson,

    Here are some things I have written about various passages in John (taken from various posts and discussions) that tie into what is being described in John 3:19-21. I have highlighted the specific sections on John 3:19-21 in bold,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Another good one is John 7:17,

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

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

    The secondary application is simply that those who are willing to hear from the Father (however He may teach them) will be drawn by the Father to Christ. In our situation, this happens by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. The principle is similar, but it is a different time and a different situation. We come to the Father through the Son, while in a very real sense the Jews of Jesus’ time came to the Son through the Father and were then able to take part in the new dispensation when only those joined to the Son can remain in right relationship with the Father. Here are a few things I wrote on drawing that might help shed light on what I am saying (how there is both a primary and secondary application),
    Not of God” [in John 8] simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims. Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45). As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45).

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

    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).”

    Hope that helps.

  369. Ben,

    I read your post Are Arminians Semi-Pelagian? but wonder if you might comment on this. At church we just began RC Sproul’s video series “Chosen By God.” He lumps Christendom into 3 categories: Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian and Augustinian. He states that Arminians are Semi-Pelagian not because they must first draw near to God, but because they must respond in faith. That is, in Arminianism salvation is ultimately up to man since he has to respond to God’s grace. I brought it up in the Q&A following, but I still wasn’t comfortable with calling Arminianism Semi-Pelagian and felt there was a difference of definition.

  370. Now Dimly,

    Sproul is simply wrong. Arminianism is in no way Semi-Pelagian. Semi-Pelagianism says that man needs to initiate movement towards God and only then does God’s grace intervene. Arminianism does not hold to that. Arminianism says that we cannot even take the first steps towards God without His grace enabling us and empowering us to do so. Calvinists Robert A Peterson and Michael D Williams are more honest about what Arminianism teaches and rightly reject the typical Calvinist attempt to paint Arminianism as Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian:

    “Does the antipathy between Calvinism and Arminianism suggest that Pelagius, the arch-opposite of Augustine, is the proper ancestor of Arminianism? Calvinists have often sought to paint Arminianism in Pelagian colors. Associating your opponent with a position that the historic faith has repeatedly judged heretical can only help one’s cause. However, the allegation that Arminianism is Pelagian is unfortunate and indeed unwarranted. From Jacob Arminius and the ‘Remonstrance Articles’ on, the Arminian tradition has affirmed the corruption of the will by sin and the necessity of grace for redemption. Arminianism is not Pelagianism….The Semi-Pelagians thought of salvation as beginning with human beings. We must first seek God; and his grace is a response to that seeking. The Arminians of the seventeenth century, however, held that the human will has been so corrupted by sin that a person cannot seek grace without the enablement of grace. They therefore affirmed the necessity and priority of grace in redemption. Grace must go before a person’s response to the gospel. This suggests that Arminianism is closer to Semi-Augustinianism than it is to Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism.” (Why I Am Not An Arminian, pg. 39)

    Hope that helps.

    BTW, I think the post you read was written by JC Thibodaux. He is a contributor at this blog, but hasn’t written anything in a while. His posts are very good. You can read all of them here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/posts-written-by-jc-thibodaux/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  371. OK, now that I look at the post, I see that I wrote it and it already has the quote in it that I just gave you. I didn’t remember writing a post by that name. Anyway, the short answer is that Sproul is wrong and what he says is a misrepresentation of Arminian Theology.

  372. Hmmm. Unfortunately, the actual article is not yet available on SEA due to the site still being updated. I am not sure who wrote the actual article I refer to in that post.

  373. Now Dimly,

    You might want to check out these posts:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/02/r-c-sproul-arminianism-and-semi-pelagianism/ — by Roger Olson; the title sums up its relevance

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/are-arminians-semi-pelagian/?/ — which argues that the charge that Arminians are either Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians is false by 1) comparing the Canons of Orange to Arminius and 2) critiquing the argument of J.I. Packer for the C charge.

    http://www.traditionalbaptistchronicles.com/2013/03/prevenient-grace-and-semi-pelagianism.html — Adressing the charge that Arminian prevenient grace amounts to Semi-Pelagianism after all

  374. Oh, the post by Rger Olson is entitled, “R. C. Sproul, Arminianism, and Semi-Pelagianism”

  375. Now Dimly,

    You might consider buying this book when you are able. It is a recent release. I have not read it, but I know the two men who wrote are excellent scholars and are very qualified to write such a book. Like Olson’s book, it should help clear up a lot of misrepresentations about Arminius and Arminianism in general.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/recent-definitive-book-on-arminius-theology-jacob-arminius-theologian-of-grace/

  376. Awesome, thanks to both of you. I actually just bought Lorainne Boettner’s “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.” Not sure if you’ve read it, but so far I’m kind of surprised that in the first 2 chapters it has only used 4 Scriptures with very little exegesis, and a whole lot of what seems to be fallacious reasoning that doesn’t necessarily promote Calvinism from Scripture. Plus it has a list of proof-texts with no commentary as of yet (except for mine in pencil and highlighter!).

  377. The review by Vic Reasoner on Amazon makes that book on Arminius sound pretty good. I haven’t read the SEA post yet.

  378. That second link that Arminian gave is the one that didn’t work on my post that referenced the article. I just updated it on that post, and now it works.

  379. Hi Ben,

    I have some questions about how to interpret Scripture properly in order to arrive at the right conclusions. I read a post at the THEOparadox blog called Big Shoes and Small Minds, and left a comment. I was pointed to another post (about Calvinism and Systematic Theology) which I plan on responding to as well because I’m simply told that to disagree with Calvinism’s paradoxes is to limit God with my logic and to disagree with Scripture.

    So, is there a preferred way to study the Bible (systematic vs. biblical theology) or is it simply a matter of the assumptions we bring to Scripture that cause us all to disagree (i.e. Calvinists vs Arminians)? Prior to becoming a Calvinist I’d never even heard of systematic theology. Is it something mainly used by them which naturally leads one to Calvinistic conclusions? Should one begin with the Old Testament first, or with the apostolic writings which is how a Greek would have learned Christ?

    I mean, if I take Derek at his word–or even to quote that C. Michael Patton article when he makes God to say, “Will you trust me?” as if God is a Calvinist–then sure I will arrive at Calvinistic conclusions. But if I simply take an Arminian theologian at his word/interpretation, then I’ll arrive at another conclusion. What do you think the issue is that leads us down different paths? This seems to be the foundational issue for me, for if I keep bouncing between both sides for answers to particular texts, then I may forever be lost in between both camps.

  380. Now Dimly,

    Typically, systematic theology is about drawing from numerous passages of Scripture to develop theology. I have never heard of “biblical theology” as opposed to “systematic theology”. Systematic theology is certainly Biblical as it draws on passages throughout Scripture to establish doctrines, like the Trinity, for example. Surely, that is Biblical theology. But systematic theology can often be comprised of cherry picking passages without much thought to careful exegesis that should inform each of those passages being used. So solid systematic theology needs to be rooted in careful exegesis. Of course, I believe that when that is done, one can only come to Arminian conclusions. You seem to have done the same. When you carefully looked at passages that address regeneration and faith, you concluded that faith precedes regeneration. So all of those passages would work together in expressing a systematic theology that faith precedes regeneration. See what I mean? Beyond that, I really have no idea what Derek is trying to sell.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  381. I guess the task that is left then is to tackle individual doctrines one at a time as carefully as possible. Would you agree?

    I’m under the understanding that systematic theology answers the question “What does the whole Bible teach about _____?” while biblical theology answers the question, “What does such and such book (say Matthew) teach about ______?” I may have picked that up from Grudem’s book in the introduction. Either way, what one book teaches must not/will not contradict any other book when properly understood.

  382. The term “Biblical Theology” can be used in more than one way. But it is used of a specific approach to theology that is distinct from other approaches such as Systematic Theology or Historical Theology. Here is a good relatively brief description of it: http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Biblical-Theology/ And here is a more detailed description from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/biblical-theology.html. ND gave a fair one line description of it. The basic idea is looking at theology as revealed progressively through God’s concrete words and deeds through history (rather than melding them altogether into abstract principles of the biblical view on a subject).

  383. So Biblical Theology is basically exegetically driven Theology.

  384. Well, systematic theology is *supposed* to be exegetically driven as well, but it is more of a synthesis/harmonization of all the Bible has to say on a topic abstracted into a doctrine, whereas biblical theology as a distinct branch of theology is more about tracing the development of a doctrine in Scripture and paying attention to the various authors’/biblical books’ views /contributions to the doctrine.

  385. OK, I think I got it now. Thanks.

  386. Hello all,

    I have a few questions regarding prevenient grace. Because I am a little scattered on the subject I will try and communicate the questions I have as best I can (mainly the third question.)

    1) I have heard the concept of “prevenient grace” goes back farther than Arminius? How far back?

    2) Are there any differences from Arminius’s (or others before him) and Wesley’s views on prevenient grace?

    3) This might be the biggest question I have. I am having a lot of trouble and no Arminian can seem to explain it to me. What is the role of “prevenient grace” in salvation or the ordu salutis? More directly, if we are “spiritually dead” or “totally depraved,” how does conversion come before regeneration? I have often heard it said, “A dead person does not make choices,” and the same applies for the “spiritually dead.” They certainly don’t assist in their being resuscitated.

    I have seen that some Arminians argue for a “partial regeneration.” I’m not really satisfied with this response at this point. It does not seem to make sense. In my understanding, you are either spiritually alive, or spiritually dead. Someone is not sorta alive? Do Arminians only believe in “total depravity” in theory? How does “prevenient grace” bring a sense of “life” into someone without full regeneration and enabling them to make a choice?

    It seems to that all these questions lead into others questions that I have (perhaps you can answer those later, ha.) I know my thoughts seem a bit scattered on this third question. But I have confidence this is definitely no new question for you and you understand what I am attempting to ask. But for me it is an honest question, I myself am confused about it and I’m having difficulty finding any good resources to read on the subject as well. This leads to my last question:

    4) Where and what are some good articles and books to read on the subject of “prevenient grace.” I would like to study it more. Obviously I need to. (Ha.)

    Thanks for you time in considering my questions. I will greatly appreciate any sense of clarity I can be given on the subject.

  387. Leon,

    Thanks for stopping by. Good questions. I’m going to start with your biggest and most important question:

    3) This might be the biggest question I have. I am having a lot of trouble and no Arminian can seem to explain it to me. What is the role of “prevenient grace” in salvation or the ordu salutis? More directly, if we are “spiritually dead” or “totally depraved,” how does conversion come before regeneration?

    The bigger question is how can spiritual life come before faith when the Bible everywhere affirms that faith precedes the reception of new spiritual life? In Arminianism, prevenient grace is not the impartation of new life, it is God working in the heart to overcome our resistance to Him and inability to trust in Him. It enables a faith response where faith would have been impossible, but it is not spiritual life. New life is receive by faith and so is the Spirit of life (John 1:12, 13; Eph. 1:13; Gal. 3:2, 5, 14) We are joined to Christ through faith and only then do we experience His life in us.

    I have often heard it said, “A dead person does not make choices,” and the same applies for the “spiritually dead.” They certainly don’t assist in their being resuscitated.

    This is a Calvinist spin on what it means to be dead in sin. That is not how the Bible describes the concept. Spiritual death refers to our separation form God and the alienation of having no relationship or connection to the source of Spiritual life. It does not have reference to the inability of a physical corpse to do anything. It is through faith that those who are dead in sin come to share in the life of Christ and are spiritually raised again (Col. 2:12, 13).

    So Arminians affirm total depravity in that without the enabling grace of God, no one would believe, but we find the Calvinist use of “dead in sin” to be unbiblical, so we do not agree with Calvinists that one needs to be regenerated in order to have faith. Such a concept is simply not supported in Scripture and is flatly contradicted by Scripture. Here are some posts and articles for you to check out on the topic:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/the-arminian-and-calvinist-ordo-salutis-a-brief-comparative-study/

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

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/some-excellent-and-concise-comments-on-free-will-the-bondage-of-sin-and-prevenient-grace/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/jesus-says-the-dead-will-hear-unto-spiritual-life/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/john-112-13/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/parallel-passages-on-regeneration/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/paul-washer%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Cdoctrine%E2%80%9D-of-election-an-arminian-critique/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/biblical-scholar-brian-abasciano-refutes-the-popular-calvinist-argument-that-the-language-of-1-john-51-means-that-regeneration-precedes-faith/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/does-regeneration-precede-faith/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/08/20/does-jesus-teach-that-regeneration-precedes-faith-in-john-33-6/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/does-ezekiel-3626-27-teach-regeneration-precedes-faith/

    http://wesleyanarminian.blogspot.com/2009/05/prevenient-grace.html

    http://www.fwponline.cc/v18n2/v18n2witzki.html

    These should get you started and answer most of your questions. I will get back to you on the rest sometimes soon.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  388. Hi Ben,

    Thank you very much for your timely response. I appreciate that you answered my most pressing question first. It has brought clarity to my misunderstanding of “prevenient grace” and the idea of being “dead in sin.”

    Also, thank you for the numerous articles on the issue. These will definitely be helpful. If any other questions come forward I hope to be able to ask them as well. But I look forward to your reply on to my other questions when you get the chance.

    In Christ,
    Leon

  389. Leon,

    On your #2, check out this early discussion on the Questions thread with a visitor named Steven. I think it will answer a lot of your questions. Let me know if you still have questions after that. Be sure to follow the discussion till the end, as there may be other discussions with other visitors inbetween responses to Steven on the issue of prevenient grace, etc.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/questions/#comment-1567

    As for those who taught it before Arminius, I am not sure you will find it described in exactly the same way as Arminius, but you can find the same basic concept in many Christian writers prior to Arminius. Here is one such quote:

    Writing over a thousand years before Arminius, Jerome (c347-420) sounded very “Arminian” in opposing the Pelagians (affirming genuine free will in man that is completely dependent on God’s gracious enabling power),

    Letters CXXXIII It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn freewill. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with freewill; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human freewill, as I said, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit. Your position is that once a man has freewill he no longer needs the help of God. It is true that freedom of the will brings with it freedom of decision. Still man does not act immediately on his freewill but requires God’s aid who Himself needs no aid.

    Against the Pelagians, Book 111, 10: But when we are concerned with grace and mercy, freewill is in part void; in part, I say, for so much depends upon it, that we wish and desire, and give assent to the course we choose. But it depends on God whether we have the power in His strength and with His help to perform what we desire, and to bring to effect our toil and effort. (God’s Strategy, pp. 303, 304)

    ***********************************************

    The above quote comes from a footnote (#6) of the following post: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/the-five-dilemmas-of-calvinism-part-4-a-litany-of-inaccuracies-and-misrepresentations/

  390. Ben,

    Thank you for pointing me into the previous discussion with Steven, that was helpful. I also enjoyed the article you listed. I think that about does it with all my previous questions. But it leads to some other big ones for me: (if you don’t mind)

    While reading through some resources and the discussion above, I had this thought: What causes some to make good on the prevenient grace given to them, and others not?

    Clearly, we deny unconditional election and irresistible grace. Furthermore, the Calvinist argument that regeneration precedes faith is false. Yet they continue to press that to “contribute” at all to ones salvation is to work for it. However, as I have seen the Scriptures are clear that faith is not a work. For all purposes faith is set against works in the Scriptures. Therefore, it cannot be a “work” as the Calvinist so intelligently argues.

    Of course this does not deter the Calvinist with whom I speak. They often ask: “What is to keep you from boasting from your decision?” If I am correct But if I am correct, no Arminian will say that the “decisive factor” unto salvation is your decision, or should I say mere acceptance of it? Even still, boasting is excluded because of faith, which leads to the argument above.

    So what is it that “causes” one to make good on the prevenient grace given to them, while another remains in sin? If there is any really “argument” here for Arminians to present. If in fact we are given the same measure of prevenient grace. I have also seen that some Arminians believe God’s prevenient grace is not universally (Episcopius, for example) who differs from Wesley (it is universal).

    This leads to my last question: Where does faith come from? Again, if I am correct some Arminians believe that faith is a gift (though they understand it differently from the Calvinist). But surely it is not within us already. I have heard some Arminians argue from Romans 12:3, but the context does not seem to fit in regards to salvation.

    Some insights into these two questions as well would be extremely helpful for myself and conversations with my Calvinist brothers. I really am encouraged and informed by your site. Thank you!

    In Christ,
    Leon

    PS: Perhaps I should note I am a former Calvinist, though it was for a brief time. I fear I might be wrong on some of these statements because of my other previous misunderstandings of Arminianism, which is why I embraced Calvinism for sometime. It simply “made sense.” I am becoming more and more convinced the reason many have misconceptions about Arminianism is because it simply means different things to different people. Therefore, it is “easier” to accept Calvinism for its systematic and detailed theology. (which seemed to be my case)

  391. Leon,

    To ask what causes one person to make good on prevenient grace is question begging. The Arminian position is that nothing outside the will causes that choice, at least not irresistibly so. People receive Christ and yield to the Spirit’s working for a variety of reasons, but it is the will that ultimately makes the choice based on whatever reasons it sees fit to value over other reasons, motives, etc.

    As for boasting, that is really a lame argument. People can boast in all sorts of things, for either legitimate or illegitimate reasons. But the reason one cannot boast in salvation is because it is a gift freely received (by faith). It is not something earned or worked for. It is not something we deserve. That someone else rejects it while you or I receive it does not give legitimate grounds for boasting according to Scriptures. Faith is simple trust in another to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Works denies the need to trust in Christ and assumes it can merit or earn salvation without Him. That is the Biblical contrast. That is why this Calvinist argument is nowhere presented in Scripture. It is alien to Scripture and to the whole concept of faith vs. works that the Biblical writers presented.

    Indeed, Calvinists can likewise boast that God chose them and not the other guy from eternity. They can say there is no legitimate reason for boasting in God’s choice of them, but one can boast all the same. The Jews in Jesus time sure boasted, though they also believed that they were born God’s chosen people. It would seem that it might be pretty hard for a Calvinist not to boast in the fact that God in His infinite wisdom decided that he or she was the “right choice” for salvation while that person’s neighbor was the “wrong choice.” Again, it is a matter of legitimate grounds for boasting, and the Arminian has no legitimate grounds for boasting, because he has received a free and undeserved gift from God, a gift that could could never be earned. That is wholly Biblical, where the Calvinist argument is wholly contrived.

    And of course, receiving a free gift cannot be rightly called “contributing” to the gift received. That is absurd. Imagine someone patting himself on the back or claiming that he “contributed” to the gift received simply because he did not choose to reject the gift instead. Imagine further if he actually tried to claim that he gave the gift to himself simply because he did not choose to reject it. All such actions are plainly absurd, and that is exactly what the Calvinist claim amounts to, though they present it in a way that can seem convincing.

    Here are a bunch of posts that will give you more detail on this issue. Let me know if you still have questions.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-%E2%80%93-fallacy-9-faith-is-some-reason-to-boast/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-%E2%80%93-fallacy-10-wait-now-faith-is-a-work/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-fallacy-1-if-we-have-libertarian-free-will-what-makes-us-choose-one-way-or-the-other/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/06/18/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-fallacy-2-arminianism-entails-salvation-by-inherent-ability/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/does-paul-support-calvinisms-view-of-irresistible-grace-in-1-corinthians-14/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/examining-inconsistencies-in-calvinistic-monergism-part-2-sanctification/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/synergism-as-a-model-for-gods-glory/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/sanctification-by-works/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/26/the-nature-of-saving-faith/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/is-arminian-theology-synergistic/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-%E2%80%93-fallacy-3-we-choose-by-chance/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/08/18/thomas-ralston-on-freedom-of-the-will-part-9-the-doctrine-of-motives/

    Hope that helps. I know it seems like a lot, but most of these posts are pretty short.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  392. Do you believe that prevenient grace is distributed equally to all? It would seem that it might be given differently. For example, the role of prayer in the salvation of the lost seems to make no sense in a Calvinistic view, but in regard to prevenient grace, prayer could move God to give additional grace to an individual, yet preserve the neccessity of them making the choice of faith. I look forward to your thoughts.

    Thanks
    Kevin

  393. Kevin,

    You wrote,

    Do you believe that prevenient grace is distributed equally to all?

    Not necessarily, but God holds us responsible for the way we respond to whatever degree of grace we are given. When it comes to putting faith in Christ, that grace to believe is accompanied with the gospel message. In other words, those who are presented with the gospel are given the grace to believe and surrender to Christ. I agree with your comments on prayer.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  394. Leon,

    You said, “So what is it that “causes” one to make good on the prevenient grace given to them, while another remains in sin?”

    To Leon and Ben: I thought I read somewhere that this question is not much different than when asked about the Fall. Adam had no sin, so what “caused” him to sin? If we put any one of all the people who ever lived in Adam’s place, we might have as many different reasons why one would disobey God. We just don’t know why Adam sinned, and it really has no bearing on reality. But suddenly Calvinists find it a compelling question in regards to salvation. Suddenly one has robbed God of his glory if we are not unconditionally elected and regenerated (prior to faith).

    “PS: Perhaps I should note I am a former Calvinist, though it was for a brief time. I fear I might be wrong on some of these statements because of my other previous misunderstandings of Arminianism, which is why I embraced Calvinism for sometime. It simply “made sense.” I am becoming more and more convinced the reason many have misconceptions about Arminianism is because it simply means different things to different people. Therefore, it is “easier” to accept Calvinism for its systematic and detailed theology. (which seemed to be my case).”

    This sounds exactly as if I had written it.

  395. I thought I read somewhere that this question is not much different than when asked about the Fall. Adam had no sin, so what “caused” him to sin?

    Very true. Adam’s sin is an impossible problem for Calvinists. They can’t say that he chose according to his nature, since God declared his nature “good”, and therefore, according to their logic, only good choices could possibly result. The only way to explain this is to posit that God irresistibly caused Adam to sin against his nature, which creates tremendous theological absurdities and unacceptable and unbiblical implications with regards to God’s holy nature and character as revealed in Scripture.

    The answer is that God created genuine free moral agents and holds them accountable for the choices they make. That was His sovereign right and God acted in sovereign freedom in making that decision with regards to the nature of His creations. So when we choose freely, we are actually choosing in accordance with our natures, since our natures include alternative power in the will. That is how God created us. Calvinists actually limit God’s sovereign freedom in denying that God could possibly create free moral agents and hold them accountable for their free choices. Apparently God is free to do anything, except that.

    Of course, with regards to trusting in Christ, that “choice” is no longer available due to our sinful nature which naturally turns away from God, but God’s gracious intervention restores that previously impossible option (of trusting in Christ) and gives us a choice again, where we had no choice.

    The bottom line is that our wills are a complete and adequate cause. God created us that way. So it is senseless to ask what caused the cause to cause, or what caused the cause to cause the cause, or whatever. The will is all the cause needed. We are the cause of our choices. We have the God given power and capacity to weigh our options and choose accordingly, and nothing outside of that power causes us to choose a certain way. That God given power is the cause, and that cause is sufficient. This accounts for why Adam sinned. He weighed his options and chose to disobey in the freedom that God gave Him, a freedom to obey or disobey, and that choice was the result of the God given power and capacity of the human will that He freely created Adam with.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  396. I’ve often wondered about this. So…where does the idea of being born with a sin nature come in? Was it more difficult for Adam and Eve to sin since he didn’t have this nature as he was created “good”? Is a free-will nature different than a sin nature? As sin is “inherited” throughout the ages, has it become “easier” to sin? I understand that God holds us accountable for our own sin–not Adam’s sin. It is clear though that we don’t need to teach a child to sin–it seems to come naturally. Was this the case for Adam?

  397. Adam and Eve did not have a sin nature, because they were not born, they were created and had no parents who had sinned. I am not sure about how sin is passed from parent to child, some describe it like a disease, or a curse, but the fact that we are is undeniable. Sin brought physical death to Adam and Eve, a death they would not have experienced had they remained faithful to God’s single commandment. If sin had not been passed down to us, nobody would die physically, or be judged in the afterlife and go to hell. I have struggled with this concept as well, and while it seems unfair that people are born basically condemned to hell (some say they will bot be, if they die before the age of understanding, others say it’s unclear) but it is true nonetheless. I struggle also with the idea that there are people who are as yet not even conceived who are more or less destined (according to foreknowledge) to hell, because they do not exist yet, hence are not under sin, yet. God has His reasons, and I believe we give man far too much credit in the area of reaching the lost, so there is hope that more people than it seems will be in heaven.

  398. Lori,

    You wrote,

    Is a free-will nature different than a sin nature?

    Free will is simply part of our nature, part of who we are, what it means to be personal beings created in God’s image.

    When the Bible speaks of our sinful nature, it is speaking of the fact that our nature (who we are) has been corrupted by the power of sin and that power inclines our wills away from God rather than towards Him.

    Is a free-will nature different than a sin nature? As sin is “inherited” throughout the ages, has it become “easier” to sin?

    Probably not because our natures have become “more” sinful, if that is what you mean. The earliest humans certainly had a strong propensity to sin. That is why God destroyed mankind in the flood. But it may be that it is easier to sin now due to a greater influence of sin on us, but even that is hard to qualify.

    It is clear though that we don’t need to teach a child to sin–it seems to come naturally. Was this the case for Adam?

    No, sin didn’t “come naturally” for Adam, but the potential for sin was in him since God created him with the ability to either obey and trust God or to disobey and not trust God.

    Hope that helps.

    Ben

  399. I have struggled with this concept as well, and while it seems unfair that people are born basically condemned to hell (some say they will bot be, if they die before the age of understanding, others say it’s unclear) but it is true nonetheless.

    Yes, there is an age when we become morally accountable because we come to fully understand the moral nature of our choices. Until then, God does not hold us accountable for our sins (Romans 7:7-11). While we cannot help being born with a sinful nature nor can we help eventually sinning in accordance with that sinful nature, we are accountable because God provides a way of escape. His grace is at work in us, and He will hold us accountable depending on how we respond to the grace given us. If we resist the grace of God that will ultimately leads us to redemption in Christ, we are responsible for all of those sins and even our sinful state as a result of refusing the grace, forgiveness and escape that God has given us (Romans 7:24, 25).

    I struggle also with the idea that there are people who are as yet not even conceived who are more or less destined (according to foreknowledge) to hell, because they do not exist yet, hence are not under sin,

    God’s foreknowledge dose not destine us to anything. God’s foreknowledge is simply knowledge in advance. It does not cause our future actions or choices, but simply foreknows them. It does not cause our destiny, but simply foreknows it, and foreknows it as conditional rather than unconditional. Here is a short but good article on the topic: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/thomas-ralston-on-freedom-of-the-will-part-8/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  400. There is no real difference between foreknowledge and destiny, because if God sees that end, yet doesn’t change it, it is as if we wee destined to it. A person who has not yet been conceived has a destiny according to foreknowledge, i.e. God knows what they will choose and or do, therefore they are destined to hell or heaven. The only way it would not be a destiny, is if God changed it against the will of the person. This is why we have Calvinists and Arminians, because the issue is so confusing and people have a tendency to take sides on just about any issue, it’s just our nature. There’s really no way around it, whether you come from a Calvinist or Arminian background, we all have a destiny that only God knows, in the end, it really doesn’t matter who chose it, it exists.

  401. Matt,

    The point is that God’s foreknowledge does not cause our destiny, which is what I wrote above. You seemed to be saying that God’s foreknowledge somehow sealed our destiny. That is not the case at all. Yes, we all have a destiny, if by that you mean that we will all ultimately end up in heaven or hell, but how or why we get to that place does make all the difference in this debate. God’s foreknowledge is not a factor in how or why we will ultimately end up in either place. If that is not what you were claiming, then we are probably in agreement.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  402. It’s not a formula that can be easily figured out and made into a doctrine, and this again is why we have Calvinists and Arminians, because rather than just going where the Bible leads, or accepting that there are some things that simply can not be explained or fully understood, people take sides, and factions are formed. The depth of the mystery is astounding, so much that I would not presume to speak on God’s behalf as to exactly how the idea of predestination and foreknowledge are intertwined. On one hand, we have the very important fact that a person can not truly worship God, without freedom of will. On the other hand, we have the very mysterious idea of God being able to know our destiny, given the boundless choices we could make depending on the way He deals with us. How can God know what I will choose, unless He intervenes to make those choices available? Is there a script, or does He have the ability to see all the trillions of possible choices, and then choose the ones I will make, based on the amount of light I am given? It’s really more than anyone can or should ponder. I believe I am a person, I make choices, I sin not because God causes me to, but because I choose to. I also believe that there are people in the world who do not even know that such a being as Jesus existed, and some even that could well have died NEVER knowing that He did or does exist. If those people were given the light I have, would they make different choices? If they were given the light that Paul Peter, John and James received, would they have then made even more choices for God? I think it is best to just take a simple, childlike approach to the matter and agree that some things are better off left to God, and we should just do what we know to be right, to the best of our ability. We can’t hold the weight of the universe on our shoulders.

  403. Matt,

    Have you considered that some things are not quite as impossible to understand as you seem to think? Just because people debate issues and disagree, doesn’t mean there is no way to understand these concepts. And just because grasping concepts can be difficult and challenging at first, doesn’t mean we should just give up and assume those things are impossible to understand. Perhaps they are, but perhaps they aren’t. But if you think reconciling free will with foreknowledge is impossible and amounts to trying to carry the weight of the universe on your shoulders, then I probably can’t change your mind about that. Not a big deal. I do recommend you read the article I referred you to though.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  404. I do believe there is a degree of inconceivability to God. I believe it was Luke who said that if all the things that could be written, were written, the books would fill the world. I take this to mean that God is boundless and infinite and mysterious. Some believe every word in the Bible was written specifically to be understood as is. I think some concepts in the Bible were introduced not so we would take them at face value, or spend lifetimes trying to figure them out, but so that in some cases, we would be forced to step back and see that God can not be placed in a test tube and be quantified and cataloged. Some things He just wants us to trust in, without the long winded discussions. I guess maybe the discussions can lead us to this end, but it seems that all too often, we thrive on the conflict, and do not want it to end.

  405. I do believe there is a degree of inconceivability to God.

    So do I. Indeed, I believe there is a profound and astounding degree of inconceivability to God, but we have not really been discussing inconceivability with God. We have been discussing what it means to say that future actions are foreknown and how this foreknowledge relates to the nature of those things foreknown. These are concepts that are not necessarily inconceivable.

    Some believe every word in the Bible was written specifically to be understood as is. I think some concepts in the Bible were introduced not so we would take them at face value, or spend lifetimes trying to figure them out, but so that in some cases, we would be forced to step back and see that God can not be placed in a test tube and be quantified and cataloged.

    Nobody is trying to do that here.

    Some things He just wants us to trust in, without the long winded discussions. I guess maybe the discussions can lead us to this end, but it seems that all too often, we thrive on the conflict, and do not want it to end.

    If you find such discussions unhelpful or find that you are thriving on conflict, then by all means do not concern yourself with such things. I personally do not think that the discussions I am having on this blog have anything to do with not trusting God, or not being willing to admit that there are things about God that are beyond us, nor do I thrive on conflict. I just think these things are important and helpful to people who are seeking answers. Taking the time to think these things through has benefited me tremendously and has greatly enhanced my understanding of the Bible and the revelation of God and Christ in the Bible. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  406. Ben,

    Thank you for your response to my question.

    I can see now how this becomes a question begging. My reason for asking was to try understand if there is any response other than the one discussed by you and I that could be given. I believe this will suffice!

    You said, “It would seem that it might be pretty hard for a Calvinist not to boast in the fact that God in His infinite wisdom decided that he or she was the ‘right choice’ for salvation while that person’s neighbor was the ‘wrong choice.” Indeed! This seems to make God arbitrary in his choosing. I also like your example of the Jews boasting (never thought of this). It was the very idea of “unconditional election” that they boasted in.

    The articles were helpful, as always.

    In Christ,
    Leon

  407. To “Now Dimly:”

    You made mention that my comments about my former Calvinist days sound exactly as if you had written them. I assure you I didn’t plagiarize! (ha.) Where did you write them? Do you have your own blog, website, etc? I would be interesting in reading it.

    In Christ,
    Leon

  408. Leon,

    I think he just means that your comments reflect his own reasons for initially embracing Calvinism and remaining a Calvinist for some time.

  409. Leon and Now Dimly,

    Would you be willing to share some of the details of your becoming a Calvinist and then moving away from Calvinism on my “X-Calvinist Corner” page? I think it could be a great help to others who are working through these same issues or are considering the claims of Calvinism for the first time:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/x-calvinist-corner/

  410. Leon,

    No you didn’t plagiarize at all. Ben hit the nail on the head…what you said sounded like what I have experienced. You can get the gist of my situation at my blog which I think you should get to by clicking my username “Now Dimly.” I’m still working out the kinks, but no longer consider myself a Calvinist.

    Ben, I will post something soon if time permits. I’ve been on call this week for work and have a variety of challenges ahead in the coming week, so it may not be for a couple of weeks.

    Gene

  411. To Ben and Now Dimly,

    Definitely, Ben. It is my final week of schooling for my undergrad so it will be a bit hectic, but I will post for it soon.

    Gene, I checked out your blog. I enjoyed it. I’ll continue to visit there to see any new posts you make. In many ways I am there with you in regards to “working out the kinks.”

    It can be difficult after having misrepresentations of Arminianism (which is the theology I grew up in initially), hearing strong systematic teaching that is orderly and attractive (Calvinism), and then coming full circle to question Calvinism again in light of the overall biblical teaching and not necessarily comparing it to Arminianism itself. But I trust that for you it has been enriching and frustrating journey as well. Hang in there!

    I look forward to reading your story.

    In Christ,
    Leon

  412. What I am getting from what Matt has said above, is that God putting the Tree there caused Adam to choose the eat that Fruit IOW disobey?

    On the other hand, we have the very mysterious idea of God being able to know our destiny, given the boundless choices we could make depending on the way He deals with us. How can God know what I will choose, unless He intervenes to make those choices available? Is there a script, or does He have the ability to see all the trillions of possible choices, and then choose the ones I will make, based on the amount of light I am given?

    I think the “Mystery” part here is just that a person makes choices for some known reason only to himself.

    There is no Mystery though if God did cause it or not, or He is to “blame” because He has put the Tree in there and presented the choice.

    The answer is to that is No.

  413. Regarding the fall, there didn’t even need to be a tree. Man could have disobeyed God at any point, be it the command not to eat or the command to be fruitful and multiply. I think that if Adam hadn’t fallen, someone else eventually would have. Have a kid, you’ll see what I mean!

  414. I understand foreknowledge a little differently from the way it is seems to have been presented in this discussion. The idea that God saves us based on the fact that “foreknew” that we would make a choice to believe in Christ does not fit with Romans 8:30 – “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”. This verse says that all whom God calls He also justifies.Not all are called, or else all would be justified. (All are called in one sense – everyone within earshot of the preaching of the gospel are being called to repentance and faith). But the call referred to in verse 30 is only given to those who have been predestined to be conformed to the image of His son (“those whom he predestined, these he also called, and those whom he called, these he also justified) All the called are justified, not some. Since Romans 5:1 tells us that justification is by faith, then the call must cause the faith. The call referred to in Romans 8:30 must be God sovereignly bringing people to faith. The idea of foreknowledge is more than knowing in advance that a certain event will occur / a certain choice will be made. It usually has the connotation of a personal kind of knowing.

  415. Leon and Now Dimly,

    No hurry at all. Take your time.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  416. I understand foreknowledge a little differently from the way it is seems to have been presented in this discussion.

    Does that mean you do not hold that God exhaustive foreknowledge? That is the main way it has been presented in this discussion.

    You mention “foreknew” in a more personal sense. Actually foreknew almost always has reference to simple prescience in Scripture, but even simple prescience does not exclude any personal aspect, for God’s prescience encompasses all things. However, I do think Paul is speaking in a more personal sense here, but he is also speaking corporately. He is speaking of the corporate elect body, and “called” is most likely being used in the naming sense as a designation of those who are His (elect people, i.e., all believers). Other examples of this naming sense of “called” are found in Rom. 9:7, 8, 25, 26. Here are some good articles with regards to this alternative interpretation of Rom. 8:28-30,

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Abasciano-on-calling.pdf

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/corporate-election-quotes/

    There are plenty of other alternative interpretations of this passage as well that do not lead to the conclusions you have drawn.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  417. Sally,

    You have brought up an interesting point about foreknowledge. Today Arminians do not all agree as to foreknowledge and its relation to free human actions. However, Classic/Reformation Arminianism has always affirmed with Calvinism that God has absolute knowledge of the future-even the smallest detail.

    A lot could be said in response to the idea of “foreknew” in verse 29 of Romans 8. I think Ben does a great job summarizing, as always.

    But this is something I have dealt with as well, so I wanted to say something (just about foreknowledge). I have never been really satisfied with the view that God simply knew who would choose him and then chose us. To me, it seems to place God on the reactive side of things. This is not to mention that the Scriptures speak of God choosing us, not us choosing him.

    With all that said, the Calvinist loves to throw out there that this is “foreknew” in verse 29 is meaning “previously loved and affectionately regarded as his own” or as the ESV Bible puts it, “special choice of, or covenantal affection for, his people” in support for their unconditional election position. But perhaps it does not support unconditional any more than conditional. They often reference many other passages for this: Gen. 18:19, Jer. 1:5, Amos 3:2, Rom. 8:29; 11:2.

    I challenged this idea when I was coming out of Calvinism. I wanted to see if it could stand up to the scrutiny. I was surprised by what I found.

    Some Arminians define “foreknowledge” simply as “prescience of faith in Christ.” On the other hand, some have affirmed both a prescience of faith in Christ and a covenantal affection for his people.

    Arminius noted: “God can previously love and affectionately regard as his own no sinner unless He has foreknown him in Christ, and looked upon him as a believer in Christ.” (Arminius III:314).

    “Whom he foreknew” seems to me to speak about knowing persons rather than simply knowing facts or something about them. But the two are not exclusive (as Ben pointed out), if God foreknew the elect as being his, this must be that he knew of their belief in Jesus as well. It simply goes without saying! There doesn’t seem to be any conflict with this understanding of foreknowledge and conditional election.

    This is where I tend to fall now. I admit the phrase, “election according to foreseen faith” (usually taken strongly from 1 Peter 1:2) is not the best expression we should use for conditional election. Robert Picirilli and others note this as well in some of their writings. But this understanding of foreknowledge or “foreknew” belongs to the Arminian just as much as it does to the Calvinist.

    What do you think?

    In Christ,
    Leon

  418. Leon and Sally,

    In addition to what Ben has said, let me draw your attention to the corporate conception of foreknowledge described a tthe following page after the material on election: http://evangelicalarminians.org/a-concise-summary-of-the-corporate-view-of-election-and-predestination/.

    Also, here is a great interpretation from a corporate perspective on the passage Sally mentioned: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Perseverance-Oropeza-on-Romans-8.28-39

  419. Arminian,

    Thank you. I have been looking for something to read along these lines. Always appreciated!

    In Christ,
    Leon

  420. Arminian,

    I was going to reference that second link as well, but it doesn’t seem to be fixed yet at SEA.

  421. Thanks Ben. It should be working now.

  422. Cool. Here is another one that needs fixing and is likely relevant:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Perseverance-Shank-on-Romans-8.28-29

  423. OK, here is a link that works for the Shank Comments on Rom. 8:28-29,

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/some-good-comments-from-robert-shank-on-rom-828-29/

  424. Hello, KangarooDort!
    I have a question:

    About the case of irresistible grace:

    Stephen, in your sermon before your murder in Acts, said that the Pharisees are ‘uncircumcised in the heart’. So, a Calvinist can said that it is the same as ‘regenerated before believing’ and the same weak analogies gush again…

    Do you know how I can respond to that argument – namely, ‘circumcising the heart is the regeneration before believing’?

  425. I would refer them to Romans 2:28, 29 and Col. 10:2-13. In both places it is obvious that circumcision of the heart takes place by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit for those who are “in Him [Christ]”, and we know that we receive the Spirit and are joined to Christ by faith (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14; Eph. 1:13; 2:18; 3:17. So a circumcised heart, while it is the result of regeneration, it does not precede faith. Also, as far as Stephen’s statement, while an uncircumcised heart can explain their resistance to the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t mean that their resistance can only be remedied by their hearts being circumcised. That simply does no follow. Prevenient grace enables the uncircumcised heart to stop resisting, but it does not cause it to stop resisting. Only when the grace enabled heart responds in faith is that heart changed. See my post on Ezek. 36 for more on that:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/ezekiel-3626-27/

  426. Ben,

    Earlier you said “When it comes to putting faith in Christ, that grace to believe is accompanied with the gospel message.”

    Could you speak to this a little more. Are you saying that the grace to believe is present in the gospel message when it is given? If so, do you also see the grace that enables belief distributed at other times and in other ways as well?

    Thanks for your work!

    Kevin

  427. Kevin,

    I think that all I meant to convey was that when we are confronted with the gospel, God enables us to respond to that message. In other words, I don’t think that anyone who hears the gospel is prevented from receiving it, but is given the grace they need to receive it when they hear it.

    If so, do you also see the grace that enables belief distributed at other times and in other ways as well?

    Probably, but grace that enables belief in what? If it is belief in the gospel, then that enablement accompanies the message as I described above. Could we be enabled to believe long before we are confronted with the message? I do think that grace may work to lead us to a place where we are prepared to hear the message long before we actually hear it, if that is what you mean. But it seems most natural to me to say that the enablement we need to believe the message is given when we hear the message. I think there is power in the Word itself that contributes to that enablement along with the inner working of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 5:12; Acts 2:37).

    Does that make sense?

  428. I think it is easy to get caught up in the “mechanics” of God so to speak, i.e. how it all works and works together, but at the end of the day, only God know just how these things are accomplished. Does each person have the ability to simply realize they are a sinner, and repent, trusting in Jesus? I think they do have the ability to understand what the Bible says, but I don’t believe they have the natural ability to feel remorse and fear of God alone, and that is where I believe the H.S. comes in. Is he always calling every person? I can not say, but the Bible does say He is in the world to convict it of sin, righteousness and judgement, so being God, and being almighty, He is “on top of things” and we can trust that he knows best when and how to draw men to Jesus. It is an undeniable facet of free will that a being with said free will MUST be able to freely choose to either accept or reject Jesus, yet it does almost seem like there are some people who have a LOT more opportunities to do this than others. We can only go by what God’s word says, because what we see and experience is as through a dark piece of glass, and is nowhere near complete.

    I have been having a long and fruitless discussion with this man in my church who is what I call a “closet Calvinist”, by that I mean he openly gives lip service to man’s free will, but is confused or uninformed about the fact that as a free willed individual, we must be constantly or regularly enabled to understand at least the basics of the gospel, in order to choose Jesus. He says that only someone who has the Spirit in them already can understand the Bible, thus he rejects any sort of scholarly discourse, or reasoning with man’s minds at all. Somehow, both man’s minds and the H.S must work together, but just how that happens is somewhat of a mystery to me. Your thoughts?

  429. Hello Ben,

    Do you have or know any Study about John 17 as a refutation of inconditional election an limited atoneament??? How do you usually respond the arguments of calvinists here?

    God Blesses you

  430. wanderson,

    John 17 is a terrible prooftext for Calvinists. The only way to get anything like unconditional election or limited atonement out of the passage is to entirely ignore context.

    First, Jesus is speaking only of the apostles in verses 6-19. And even then, the language of verse 12 implies that Judas was among those who were given by the Father, and yet he perished.

    Verse 20 broadens the prayer to all who will come to believe through the testimony of the apostles. Verses 21 and 23 broadens it further to “the world” and thereby kills any hope for the Calvinist in trying to limit Christ’s prayer or atonement to the elect alone.

    As I said, it is a terrible prooftext. I find it strange that Calvinists even reference John 17 in support of Calvinism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  431. Can you direct me to any information on the Biblical definitions of “choose, chose and chosen”. I don’t at all believe in calvinism, but I have difficulty in understanding the concepts relating to these terms, .Thanks

  432. Paul,

    In what context are you referring to with these variations? Are you speaking specifically about election? Basically, I would say that such words (and concepts) in the Bible are to be understood in the same way that we typically understand them. Other than that, I am not sure what you are looking for.

  433. Sorry, I just saw your response. Yes, I’m speaking concerning election. I’ve heard Calvinists use scriptures such as At 13:17, Lu 6:13, Jn 15:15 and Mr 13:20. I know God is just and fair and gives all equal opportunity to come to him, but I can’t reconcile these scriptures.

  434. Paul,

    Acts 13:17 has reference to God’s choosing of the patriarchs. This was an election of who would be the chosen covenant head of His people. To better understand this, you should really read up on the corporate election view (which I hold to). That should really help you out. Here is a good post to get started on:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/corporate-election-quotes/

    But even the choosing of the patriarchs wasn’t unconditional, as the promises being fulfilled was dependent on faith and obedience (Gen. 15:6; 22:11-18; 26:3-5, etc.).

    Luke 6:13 has reference to being chosen to the apostolate (an election to service), but that did not guarantee salvation, since one of those chosen (Judas) was not saved.

    John 15:15 (I assume you meant verse 16) also has reference to the apostles alone, and again it is clear that even the apostles, who are “already clean” can still be “cut off” if they do not remain in Christ by faith.

    Again, I highly recommend the article on corporate election quotes linked to above. I would also recommend following the links to the articles, especially in the first section by Dr. Brian Abasciano.

    Here is another good one that deals with some of the examples you mention here: http://evangelicalarminians.org/glynn.Dr.Brian-Abasciano-Responds-To-Dr.Dan-Wallace-On-The-Issue-Of-Corporate-Election/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  435. Thanks Ben – I will definately check them out. May the Lord bless you also

  436. Hey Ben,

    I stumbled across your website a week ago, and as someone who has started to have more frequent interactions with Calvinists over the last couple years (have had interactions with them for 10-15 years), I must say I’m truly grateful for the resources you’ve made available and arguments you’ve presented! I don’t think I will be lacking when it comes to responses to theological/soteriological questions, which I’ve needed to give defenses for what I believe. I’m in my mid-20s, and I’ve had a good foundation in apologetics, but now I’m trying to firm up this part of my doctrine, and I’m grateful for this site.

    Now, I have a question concerning Matt. 7:24-27. I was trying to think over scriptures that would provide good grounds to not hold to “once saved, always saved,” in the context of a believer who willingly walks away from the faith. That scripture came to mind.

    In my reading of the text, it seems to tie in with Jesus’ previous point concerning true and false disciples, those that “know him” and subsequently do his will, and those that “don’t know him” and do not do his will. The word “therefore” in vs. 24 connects the two “anecdotes,” and the wise builder then becomes a type for the true disciple and the foolish builder becomes a type for the false believer. Since Jesus compared the false disciples to “evildoers” and ordered them to depart from him, than this would be similarly applied to the foolish believer, who is “not putting to practice” the words he has heard, an action unrelated to Christ’s work within him as a believer.

    Would you say this is a correct interpretation of the scripture? And furthermore, what, if any, would be the calvinist response to such a claim? And if a claim, rebuttals?

    Blessings,

    John

  437. John, I am sure that Ben will answer when he has a chance but I can give you my take on it. I am an Arminian and I do not see Matt 7:24-27 as a proof text for a believer that walks away from the faith. If you start at verse 13 and read through verse 27, I would say that Jesus is referring to those “false prophets”, “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and most importantly those that he never knew. He is not speaking about those he once knew and departed.

    This portion of never knowing Jesus (along with 1 John 2:19) are some of the main proof texts that Calvinists use to show that those that “fall away” were never really saved to begin with. The rebuttal to that would be that while the Scripture in these places does speak of those that “never knew him” and were never saved to begin with, the Scripture also speaks of those that he “does not know” (see Matt. 25: 1-13 which I think is a better proof text for what you are looking for) and repeatedly warns believer against falling away (see 1 John 2:24 among many others). It also has examples of believers that actually do fall away (such as Samson, King Solomon, Judas, Hymaneus and Alexander and the widows of 1 Tim. among others). Also, do not forget to ask the Calvininsts about the purpose of the warning passages in the New Testament and it is unbelievable how they try to get around passages such as 1 Cor 10, Romans 11, Hebrews 3, 6 and 10 and Rev. 2 and 3 among many others.

    Hope this helps.

  438. Thanks JPC! I’ll get studying on those passages.

  439. John,

    Sorry it took me a while to get back, but it seems that JPC led you in the right direction. I agree with him that Matt. 7:24-27 probably isn’t dealing with apostasy. Rather it is addressing the difference between those who act on His words and hose who do not. I suppose that could carry on into the Christian walk as well, and in that case could support a doctrine of apostasy, but it is still not a strong text to reference in my opinion. But there are plenty of Scriptures that do deal directly with apostasy as JPC mentioned. If you haven’t already, you should check out my 13 part series on the subject. Here is the first post. At the end of each post is a hyperlink that will take you to the next one:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-1-definitions/

    Also, you can click on the category for apostasy (on the left side bar) and find a lot of posts and articles there as well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  440. Though Ben,

    Unlike JPC, I think you, like me, believe that 1 John 2:19 does not necessarily refer to people who never knew Jesus, but can and probably partly does refer to people who knew Jesus but turned away from true faith.

  441. Apologies a for turning back time and asking this question again. 🙂

    I just recently came accross a calvinist who is insisting that 1 Corinthians 2, is teaching R precedes F by using v.8 and v.14 then just dismisses chapter 3 as talking about Immature Christians.

    Sure I mentiontioned the true context of those verses but haven’t used Galatians 3 yet.

    Can you direct me to the right direction where to start regarding the rebuttal for this? 🙂

    Thanks.

  442. rex,

    If you haven’t already, see my debate with Dominic:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/addressing-dominics-response-to-the-purpose-of-regeneration-in-calvinism/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/03/24/responding-to-dominics-second-rebuttal-on-regeneration-preceding-faith/

    As you mentioned, the fact that Paul refers to them as immature Christians, but still “in Christ” makes the Calvinist interp impossible. And the fact that Galatians plainly teaches that we receive the Holy Spirit by faith is the nail in the coffin. I would be interested to hear how your Calvinist friend honestly tries to grapple with those issues.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  443. Yes I already read and used those debate links thank you.

    “I would be interested to hear how your Calvinist friend honestly tries to grapple with those issues.”

    – Ok. I’m assuming though that he will just say that before the believers practice that Faith in Gal 3, they where already given another Spirit so they can believe using that 1 Cor prooftexts of his.

    😀

    And others like unbelievers are blinded/veiled etc. I’m not sure I want to bother with that loop again but lets see.

    Thanks again and God bless,
    Rex

  444. – Ok. I’m assuming though that he will just say that before the believers practice that Faith in Gal 3, they where already given another Spirit so they can believe using that 1 Cor prooftexts of his.

    Well, that would serve as a pretty clear illustration of how desperate his position has become. Either the Spirit dwells within us or it does not. The burden will rest on him to plainly demonstrate that there is
    “another Spirit” or a different “indwelling” than the one described in Galatians. We can’t have the Holy Spirit within us before we receive Him.

    As for the veil, 2 Cor. 3:16 says,

    “…but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

    Turning to the Lord is what lifts the veil being described in those passages.

    May God guide you and help you as you continue your discussion.

  445. Well they didn’t tackle the Galatians verses, just stuck to their guns with 2 Cor 2:14 to mean what they say it means and now uses Romans 10:17 🙂

  446. Ben,

    I have a question regarding natural or federal headship. I know that it is not a direct question about Arminianism and Calvinism, yet depending on if you are Arminian or Calvinist you either hold to natural or federal? Is that true?

    What exactly is natural and federal headship? What are the differences?

    If you can’t provide an answer or it’s too off topic for this forum that’s okay. If not, do you know of any other websites or resources available to help?

    In Christ,
    Leon

  447. Leon,

    An Arminian or Calvinist could take either view. You can find a treatment of the issue from an Arminian scholar in F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism and also in his book Quest for Truth. I think you could view the section in one or both of those online via Amazon or Google Books.

  448. I have seen it alleged on a Calvinist board that Arminius travelled to Rome and studied under the Jesuit monk de Molinas; there was no reference given about it – I am awaiting one – but I feel I will never get one because this assertion was made in a post that also contained a link to a book of EXTREME hypercalvinistic nonsense.

    In any case, the only scholarly link I have ever seen of Arminius and Molinas is a “list of books in Arminius’ library which contained Molinas’ book”.

    That is hardly “travelling to Rome” and “studying under” Molinas on Arminius’ part.

    Can anyone confirm or deny any trip whatsoever by Arminius to Rome at all?

    Thank you

    – Episcopius

  449. I personally have never heard anything like that, though I am not an expert. Perhaps someone else will stop by and give you a better answer.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  450. Looking for help on my last hurdle with Eternal Security. In Jn 10, Jesus promises eternal life, his sheep will never perish, no one can snatch his sheep from his hand nor the Fathers hand and that the Father is greater than all. My understanding is that the Arminian position is that these promises are to those who are presently believing and therefore, presently his sheep. Here is my question: If someone is presently believing and therefore being kept by God’s power, how can they move toward unbelief? In that case, in what way would Jesus be fulfilling his promise? If someone was a believing sheep under this passage and Satan or the worlds influence was to lead them from Christ in an ultimate sense, hasn’t the sheep been snatched from Jesus hand? I appreciate your help.

    Kevin

  451. Hey Kevin,

    I address that passage in this post:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-12-examining-passages-commonly-appealed-to-by-the-advocates-of-unconditional-eternal-security/

    You will probably also find the comments about Rom. 8:35-39 helpful, which is right under the treatment of John 10. I think the quotes by Forlines are especially helpful.

    Let me know if you still have questions.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  452. The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote to Calvinists.

    There are also churches who are called neo-Calvinists who claim to subscribe to both free will and Calvinistic theories. In their view, man has a choice given to him before and during the salvation process, but not after repentance. They base their beliefs on several key verses or segments of verses, three of which we will examine closely. The first is a segment of verses in Romans 8, with special attention to verses 35-39.
    These verses begin with the question “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” This whole line of reasoning hinges on the word separate. The Calvinist and neo Calvinist understanding of Arminian doctrine of apostasy is incorrect because they assume that Arminians believe that salvation may be lost or taken away, therefore, they take Romans 8:35-39 as proof that believers’ apostasy is not possible. When examined in context, however, the meaning of these verses is clear. All the things mentioned — tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth or any or creature, are outside influences. Nothing is said of sin or faithlessness. No outside force acting upon a Christian can forcibly remove their faith or salvation, but a person who acts on their own will may choose to not believe in Jesus any longer.
    The second passage we will examine is John 6:37, 40 which states “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise case out. And this is the Fathers’ will which hath sent me, that of all which He has given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” K.J.V.
    First, we know that the Father doesn’t give those to Jesus who do not want to be given to Jesus. If the Father gives someone to Jesus, it is someone who has repented and truly believes. Second, we must understand the phrase “I should lose nothing” in light of foreknowledge. It is true that those who truly are saved and remain so until the end will be raised up at the last day. Therefore, John 6:40 can only be understood as a future event (i.e. at judgment) and not a present one since salvation is not set in stone until a person has “endured to the end” (Mark 13:13, Matthew 24:13). A person who has endured all things and has retained faith in Christ will be given to Christ and raised on the last day. Remember, only God knows who will die saved and who will die lost, so Jesus can make the statement in verse 40 based on foreknowledge. (that He will lose none whom He is given.)
    The third passage we will examine is Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” K.J.V.
    This verse is a favorite among Calvinists and neo-Calvinists use in a debate about the security of the believer. My next statement may shock my Arminian brethren, but I too believe this statement supports and even spells out eternal security. There are some things it does not support. First, if we assume that the “good work” that was begun was salvation or rebirth, then we must revert back to what we have already said about how man attains salvation and that process is begun by personal faith. God will not begin salvation in a non-believer, nor does He force anyone to have faith in Jesus. So, if the good work is salvation, God will not begin it without consent of the believer.
    Now that we have shown that the good work will not begin by force or without personal faith, we must conclude that it will not be completed without faith. It is not my desire, or that of Arminians, to diminish the security a believer has in Christ, merely to define security in true Biblical terms. Salvation is by God’s grace, Jesus’ sacrifice and our faith. Faith is no more a work than is grace. If faith were a work, God would not demand it because works cannot have any part in becoming saved or born again. Our eternal security is completely assured as long as we have faith. God is completely faithful to complete His work in us, but we must have and maintain faith in order for God to do His work. So, if God’s work ceases, it is not because He was faithless, it is because we became faithless. In short, this verse deals solely with God’s fulfillment of His new covenant responsibilities, not ours.

  453. I reread your article on Jn 10. The point that I’m struggling with isn’t really addressed. Forlines says “Though all the powers of the universe were to combine against the believer, they could not take the believer away from God.” This is my problem. If the powers of the universe come against a Christian (and they do) and that believer is beaten down by them…tempted by them…deceived by them…and that believer eventually chooses to turn away from Jesus, haven’t they been successful in taking them away from God? In that scenario, how has Jesus kept his sheep from being snatched away? How is God demonstrating that he is “greater than all” when his sheep are deceived and led away? If the believer can be turned by the enemy away from God, what are we saying that Jesus is really doing for his sheep in John 10?

    Thanks

    Kevin

  454. Kevin,

    I think it was addressed, but you seem to be missing the implication. One of Forlines’ points is that such outside forces can never have irresistible sway over the believer to the point where the believer cannot help but to turn away. That is impossible. In that sense, nothing can snatch the believer away from his security in Christ. For example, you write,

    This is my problem. If the powers of the universe come against a Christian (and they do) and that believer is beaten down by them…tempted by them…deceived by them…and that believer eventually chooses to turn away from Jesus, haven’t they been successful in taking them away from God? In that scenario, how has Jesus kept his sheep from being snatched away?

    It seems clear that you are describing a scenario where the believer is completely overwhelmed by outside forces to the point where they really have no choice but to fall away. But this passage is saying that the believer can never be overwhelmed in such a way that turning away is inevitable. If outside forces could overwhelm the believer and thereby irresistibly turn the believer away from God, then those forces would have indeed forcibly snatched the believer away. But that is not the case. Regardless of the influences in the believer’s life that may be working to take the believer away from God, they cannot succeed unless the believer freely decides to yield to such influences to the point of unbelief.

    So while they may have a powerful influence on the believer at times, that influence is still resistible as God empowers the believer to remain in Him. That power is always able to prevent the believer from being influenced to the point where such influences become irresistible. God’s power and influence is “greater” than the powers that are trying to remove the believer from God. They simply cannot do it. But if the believer freely yields to those resistible powers and no longer makes use of the power of God to resist those powers and remain, then the believer will of his own accord turn away from God. That is what Osbourne meant in saying that the protection described in these verses addresses outward forces and not “inward apostasy.”

    It is similar to the issue of a believer resisting sin. 1 Cor. 10:13 makes it clear that when we are tempted, God provides a way of escape so that we can endure the temptation and not fall to it. So when a sinner falls to temptation, it is despite God’s power to protect the believer from sin. Did sin triumph over God’s power to enable the believer to resist temptation and make use of the way of escape? Not at all. The believer freely yielded to that temptation despite God’s powerful provision to resist it.

    Hope that helps.

  455. Thanks. That does help. Have you written anything in regard to Hebrews 10:14?

  456. I have touched on it briefly in the following posts:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-7-who-is-sanctified-in-hebrews-1029/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-8-what-kind-of-sanctification-is-being-described-in-hebrews-1029/

    The short answer is that “perfected” has reference to true forgiveness, found in Christ’s blood, that cleanses the conscience of the believer in contrast to the blood of animals under the old covenant (10:1-13, 15-18).

    “For all time” has reference to the fact that Christ’s sacrifice which makes forgiveness possible does not need to be repeated (verse 10). It will forever accomplish its purpose of providing forgiveness for those who are (lit.) “being sanctified.” Those who are being sanctified can always find forgiveness in Christ’s “once for all [time]” sacrifice, as they continue to trust in Him.

    However, one can forfeit the application of this sacrifice (forgiveness and inner cleansing/sanctification) through unbelief (10:22-39, esp. vs. 29).

    I think you will find more to help you in the posts as well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  457. Just to add a little to what Ben is saying, most translations say that they “ARE BEING sanctified” not that they have been sanctified, so I am led to believe that A. the fact that sanctification is ongoing would indicate that it is not set in stone and B. the perfection is in the work of Christ, not the people who have accepted Christ, since their perfection, or completion is ongoing. The perfection Jesus offers is completion of His work that allows anyone who trusts in Him to be saved, but we are not made perfect, until we have lived a life in faith, and have died in faith.

  458. I would like to contribute a few thoughts and scriptures to the discussion on eternal security.
    John 5:24
    “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

    Once we have believed, we have eternal life – not WILL have, but already have. It is ours. We cannot lose it or it would not be eternal.

    John 6:37-40
    37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

    If the Father’s will is that those He has given to Jesus will not be lost – they won’t be.

    1 John 1:5
    5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God

    If we have been born of God, we will never become “unborn”

    2 Corinthians 1:21-22
    21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

    God makes us to stand firm – we don’t do it on our own. If His seal of ownership is on us – are we not His own? If we have received the spirit as a guarantee….are we not guaranteed to receive what the deposit promises?

    Ephesians 1:13-14
    And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

    Again – when we believe, we are sealed as His possession. We are given the Holy Spirit as our guarantee.

    1 John 2:19
    19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

    If they had REALLY belonged to the body – THEY WOULD HAVE REMAINED

    Matthew 7:22-23
    Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    He says “I NEVER knew you”. Not “I once knew you, but then you fell away”

    1 Peter 1:23
    For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

    We have been born of imperishable sees. If we can become unborn – then it wasn’t imperishable seed after all.

    Romans 11:29
    God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

    Are not faith and salvation gifts?

    We do nothing, NOTHING to receive our salvation. How then do we believe that we must do something to keep it? It does not depend on us. If it did, NO ONE would be able to keep it, because no one is good enough or can be perfect in their belief and in their faith on their own.
    I read this somewhere:
    We are like a small child, walking over treacherous terrain with a loving father, clutching onto his hand. He tells us to hold on and not let go. We want to hold on – but we are small and weak, and we are becoming so tired. It is such a long, difficult walk. We trip on a rock, and we let go. Are we lost? How can we be lost, with a loving father gripping our tiny hand in his big strong one. We let go – but He would never let go. He is more than able to hold on, and because we are His, He loves us far too much to let go even when in our weakness we fail to hold tightly enough to Him.

    Romans 5:9-11
    Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    He DIED for us when we were his ENEMIES! Now that we are His loved ones, will He ever let us go?

  459. You are negating a very large part of the Bible when you say things like this, and you as much as giving people a free pass to sin without consequence. I won’t address all of the poorly thought out and poorly studied doctrines here, but I will address this idea that having eternal life means one has an irrevocable gift in them. Having eternal life is contingent upon our faith. God’s part is grace, but God does not impart grace to a non believer. Therefore, to “have eternal life” means to possess the gift of eternal life which is only set in stone once one has “Endured to the end” and has not renounced Jesus. Think of eternal life as a certificate. You have it, and as long as you have it, it is yours. You argue that once we have eternal life, eternal life has begun, but time and time again, Jesus equates eternal life with heaven. Nobody would argue that we are now in heaven, yet you eternal securists say we are now living in eternal life. John 15 tells us that to retain eternal life, we must abide (remain) in Him. How did we become “in Him” to begin with? We believed, and received a new birth. So, to cease believing is apostasy, a willful departure from Jesus by virtue of a cessation of trust in Him, from which there is no return. The whole point of the New testament is to A. get people saved and B. keep them grounded in Christ. To say “once we are saved, we are always saved” is to lay aside the need for sanctification and strengthening of our faith. Do not be lazy, and stop teaching this lackadaisical stuff, you could very well cause a weaker brother to fall!

  460. Matthew –
    God most certainly does impart grace to non-believers. If it were not for grace, there would be no hope for any of us. We were all non-believers when we were given the gift of faith, by grace.

    Ephesians 2
    As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    It is true that we do not receive eternal life in all its fullness, or the fulness of our salvation, until we make it through this life – remaining in Christ – and reach heaven, But we must ask ourselves – how is it that we remain in Christ till the end? The strength of our convictions? Will-power? Determination? No. It is none of these things.

    1 Peter 1:3-9
    3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

    It is by God’s power – through the gift of faith – that we are able to endure to the end, to receive the inheritance kept for us.

    Romans 8:32
    He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

    God gave the life of his son for our sakes. Could there then be anything necessary for our salvation that He would with-hold from us? It is inconceivable.

    In John 17:3 Jesus does not equate eternal life with heaven, but with knowing God and the one He sent:
    Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

    The Bible teaches not that we believe and then are given new birth, but that we are given new birth, which then enables us to believe.

    1 John 5
    5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God

    IS born of God – not WILL BE

    We come to be in Christ by believing, yes, but how to we come to believe? Is it something we are able to conjure up on our own strength or out of our own goodness? We were DEAD in transgressions and sins until God raised us to faith.

    Believing that God is powerful enough and gracious enough to preserve us in Christ is not, I don’t believe, laying aside the need for sanctification and strengthening of our faith. Salvation is based on justification, which is a onetime event. Sanctification is an ongoing life-long process. We are commanded to abide in Christ, not to “let go and let God”. But we abide in the power of the Holy Spirit – another of God’s gracious gifts.

    Romans 3
    21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

    27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

    A common perspective of eternal security is “once saved always saved” which I think is taken by many people to mean that once you are saved you can go on your merry way and do as you please because you are “in”. You prayed that sinner’s prayer (not biblical) and now you are set. This is not at all a biblical perspective.

    James said faith without works is dead. We are saved by faith alone(which is a gift), as Paul taught, but not by faith that IS alone. Saving faith results in good works/right living. To embrace Christ requires repentance – turning away from sin. If we embrace sin we are not embracing Christ.Can a coin land heads up and tails up at the same time? Neither can a person be turned in opposite directions at once.

    I certainly do not want to be the cause of anyone falling, And I understand how a misunderstanding of the doctrine of eternal security could be a stumbling block. But I think we cannot shy away from examining what the scriptures say for fear of causing someone to stumble. Even the gospel was a stumbling block to the Jews, but the gospel must be preached, for it is the power of God that brings salvation.
    It is my desire for everyone to see the beauty of God’s grace, extended to us while we were yet sinners and dead in transgressions. If I could do nothing to save myself, how would it be that i am able to keep myself saved? Only God is able. Do I need to obey and cling to Christ? absolutely. Can I do this on my own? Absolutely not. God grants what He requires. There is no boasting, only faith in future grace.

  461. God does not grant grace to people who do not ask for it. He extends mercy to sinners who rebel against Him, but that has its limits as well. The only way to attain the grace of God is by trusting in Jesus, and that is always a personal decision. Grace is not a work, and neither is faith, although the way we receive grace was a result of Jesus’ work on the cross. Faith is a decision, not a feeling.

  462. Matthew, could you please offer some scripture to support your belief that God does not grant grace to people who do not ask for it? I believe that the only way to trust in Jesus is by the grace of God. I agree that neither faith nor grace are works, and I also agree that faith is not a feeling – but I do not agree that it is a decision. The Bible says that grace and faith are gifts. By faith we make decisions, but faith is more like a channel through which flows God’s grace to us. But the channel itself is a gift. Even though faith, belief, and trust are not works, there can still be an element of boasting in them if they are from ourselves. If you did not believe because God’s grace enabled you to, then how did you come to believe and trust in Jesus and your neighbor did not? Are you smarter/more spiritual/more humble …..than he is? That would mean that there is something in you that caused God to save you, yet the Bible teaches otherwise.

  463. Proverbs 3:33-35

    33 The Lord’s curse is on the household of the wicked,
    but He blesses the home of the righteous;
    34 He mocks those who mock,
    but gives grace to the humble.
    35 The wise will inherit honor,
    but He holds up fools to dishonor.

    Acts 13:42-44

    42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

    Romans 4:15-17

    15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

    16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

    Ephesians 2:8-9

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    Hebrews 11:6
    And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

  464. Sally,

    Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I am the operator and owner of this site. This thread is primarily for questions. It is not for debate or for countering what someone who is asking me a question might be saying. If you have a specific question about eternal security or certain Bible passages, please feel free to ask. That is what this thread is for. However, since you did leave a response that I find very problematic, I will interact with your initial comments when I get the chance. Until then, I would recommend you take a look at my 13 Part series on the subject starting here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-1-definitions/

    Once you read that first post, you will find a link at the bottom that will take you to the next part and so on for each post. Or, you can follow this link (below) which will bring up the whole series, beginning with Part 13 and working backwards as you scroll down:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

    Also, regarding Matt’s comments, he is not the owner of this site though he likes to chime in now and then. Typically, I don’t have a problem with that as long as it seems helpful. However, I do not agree with Matthew on everything, especially his saying that God does not grant grace to people who do not ask for it. That does not represent the Arminian perspective and is therefore contrary to the views that this blog sets forth. While the grace of salvation is only accessed through faith (as Matt seems to be saying), Arminians also hold that even the ability to believe is an act of grace by God, without which we could not even put faith in Him. We call that prevenient grace (grace that “precedes” and enables our faith response, though not irresistibly). I haven’t had a chance to look through all of the comments in detail (yours and Matt’s), but as I said, hope to respond to your specific comments when I get the time.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  465. Hello, I am new here, but I would like to find out how arminians answer 1 John 3, 7-10. Some Calvinist used that in a discussion to show that a person cannot abandon the faith.
    Greetings

  466. Also, I would like to ask if are there somewhere some sermons, or articles, or whatever as a summary, an introduction to arminianism, for person who doesn’t know much about this but wants to know, where many popular calvinist arguments are refuted, “all in one”?
    Greetings

  467. Hello Marius,

    I am strapped for time right now, so it might be a little while before I can address your questions. Thanks for being patient. In the meantime, I would look at the numerous posts here and at SEA that deal with Calvinist arguments. Here you can look to the left side bar and find posts according to categories. Here is the link to SEA (The Society of Evangelical Arminians).

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  468. Thank you for your reply, and I hope that everything I say is understandable, because English is not my native language. I’m sorry for any mistakes.
    I’ll be waiting of course, and in a meantime I will try to acquaint with this blog and website you gave me link to. Thanks.
    Greetings

  469. Hello, I am a Pentecostal Evangelical who has been taking a class on soteriology at my in-law’s church in the same neighborhood and they teach a Reformed view. It has really wracked my brain as to whether or not Arminianism or Calvinism is more in line with the Gospel teaching.

    So I went to your blog and found your articles critiquing John Piper’s theodicy and his idea that God creates both good and evil and how that obscures moral categories. You’ve also argued that it is not Biblical. Yet I want to know how you would interpret the following verse from Isaiah,

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

    I am not trying to be annoying. I sincerely want to know how this verse should be in interpreted within an Arminian framework, because it seems to me that this verse supports Piper’s theodicy.

  470. Tyler,

    I only have a minute, but this is actually a pretty easy verse to explain. The KJV is a really poor translation here. The NASB says, “Causing well being and causing calamity.” The NIV says, “I bring prosperity and create disaster“, and the RSV translates it, “I make wealth and create woe.” Even the new Calvinist favorite translation, the ESV, renders it, “I make well being and create calamity.”

    Now the Hebrew word “Ra” can also have reference to moral evil, but it has a wide range of uses and the proper use must be determined by context. That is why so many translations translate the word “disaster” or “calamity” in this passage. The context has to do with God’s dealing with Israel and other nations. It is a reference to divine judgment for the rebellion of kings and nations against God in this context. In this chapter it describes the contrast between the help that will be given Cyrus and Israel compared to the disaster that will come upon Egypt.

    What is interesting is verses 9-11 which was used by Paul along with Jeremiah 18 as the imagery of the Potter in Romans 9 that so many see as a proof text for unconditional election and reprobation. But in this context it is wholly concerned with God’s righteous judgment on those who “strive” or “fight against” their maker (in Romans 9 it has reference to the Jews who are denying God the sovereign right to save the Gentiles through Christ and to reject unbelieving Israel due to their rejection of Christ, because they wrongly see this as God not upholding his promises to the descendants of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob).

    In Jeremiah 18 it is clear that the way God, as the Potter, deals with peoples and nations is wholly conditional on their responses to Him (vss. 6-10). And you will notice that the same word that the KJV translates as “evil” is used in Jeremiah 18:8 with reference to God relenting to bring judgment on a rebellious nation that turns back to God (clearly conditional rather than unconditional),

    “If the nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.” (NASB)

    The same is true in verse 11 where God devises calamity and judgment for the people of Israel due to their stubborn rebellion, even though He had good intentions for them (again, clearly conditional based on Israel’s response to God rather than unconditional). In verses 8 and 11 we see the same word being used in two different ways based on context. It is used of the moral evil of rebellion against God and the disaster of divine judgment in response to that rebellion against God.

    Any Calvinist that uses Isaiah 45:7 as a proof text that God is the origin of all sin and moral evil is guilty of gross proof texting.

    Hope that helps,
    Ben

  471. Great comments Ben. Let me also add that for a Calvinist to use Isaiah 45:7 as a proof text for God as the origin of evil seems like it would be for them to prove too much. The official Calvinist line is that God is not the author of evil. But if they use that verse to say that God creates all evil, then that would seem to be them making him out as the author of evil.

  472. Sally,

    You write,

    John 5:24

    “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
    Once we have believed, we have eternal life – not WILL have, but already have. It is ours. We cannot lose it or it would not be eternal.

    The text does not say “once we have believed”; the text says “believes”, which is almost always in the present tense in John, denoting continuing action. So as we continue to believe, we continue to be joined to Christ and share in His life. Eternal life is eternal because it resides in Him. There is no eternal life outside of Christ. Our sharing in His life is contingent on possessing Christ through faith,

    “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has [presently] the Son has [presently] the life [that is in Him alone]. He who does not have the Son of God [presently] does not have [presently] the life [which is in Him alone].”

    1 John 5:11, 12

    John 6:37-40

    37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

    If the Father’s will is that those He has given to Jesus will not be lost – they won’t be.

    Again, “believes” (in verse 40) is a present participle denoting continuous action (i.e., “is believing”). “Looks” is as well. It is the one who is continually believing and looking to the Son. The one who is believing is certain to be raised up at the last day, but if one ceases to believe, that person will be cut off from Christ and the life that is in Him alone (John 15:5, 6).

    See this post for more on that, https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/does-jesus-teach-unconditional-eternal-security-in-john-637-65/

    1 John 1:5

    5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God
    If we have been born of God, we will never become “unborn”

    First, that is nothing more than assertion on your part. Still, while it may seem strange to speak of becoming “unborn” it is not strange to speak of death. One who is born of God and given new life in Him can yet “wither” and die if they are cut off from the source of that life through unbelief (John 15:5, 6).

    2 Corinthians 1:21-22

    21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.,

    God makes us to stand firm – we don’t do it on our own. If His seal of ownership is on us – are we not His own? If we have received the spirit as a guarantee….are we not guaranteed to receive what the deposit promises?

    But this assumes that the promises and provisions of God are unconditional, which this text does not say (and there is no text that does). The Spirit is a guarantee, but only for those who continue in the faith, for those who do not have faith do not have the Spirit. For more on that, see here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/some-further-reflections-on-the-nature-of-the-sealing-of-the-holy-spirit-in-eph-113-and-430/

    Furthermore, for Paul to say that it is God who makes us stand does not imply that God makes us stand irresistibly, only that it is only through His empowering and enabling that we can stand, without which we could not. Likewise, Paul tells the Gentiles in Romans 11:18 that the “root” supports them (makes them able to stand- by faith cf. Rom. 11:20). However, this support and their standing is not unconditional nor irresistible, since they can yet be broken off if they do not “continue” in God’s kindness (vss. 21-22).

    Ephesians 1:13-14

    And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

    Again – when we believe, we are sealed as His possession. We are given the Holy Spirit as our guarantee.

    See the link to the post above on sealing.

    1 John 2:19

    19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

    If they had REALLY belonged to the body – THEY WOULD HAVE REMAINED

    I agree that they did not belong to the body when they left, but that does not mean they never did (prior to their defection). That is a conclusion that must be read into the text. See the following link for more: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/does-1-john-218-19-support-the-calvinist-never-saved-to-begin-with-view-of-apostasy/

    Matthew 7:22-23

    Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    He says “I NEVER knew you”. Not “I once knew you, but then you fell away”

    This passage affirms that there will be hypocrites who claimed to know God, and yet never did. However, it does nothing to prove that apostasy from true saving faith is impossible. To the virgins who ran out of oil, the Lord said, “I do not know you”, rather than “I never knew you.” Note also that these virgins indeed had oil in their lamps at one point, just as the other virgins. The only difference is that they allowed their oil to run out (Matthew 25:1-13).

    1 Peter 1:23

    For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

    We have been born of imperishable sees. If we can become unborn – then it wasn’t imperishable seed after all.

    They were born again through the preaching of the word, and that word is the imperishable seed (vss. 24-25). It was only through receiving that word that they were born again, and they will remain God’s children as long as they cling to the promise of the word. But it is possible to receive the word which gives life, “believe for a while,” and later fall away and perish (Luke 8:11, 13).

    Romans 11:29

    God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
    Are not faith and salvation gifts?

    See the following post on Romans 11:29: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/does-paul-teach-that-the-gift-of-salvation-is-unconditionally-irrevocable-in-romans-1129/

    And don’t forget that according to Romans 11:17-22 the Gentiles who were presently standing by faith could yet be broken off from the elect people of God (represented by the olive tree) through unbelief.

    We do nothing, NOTHING to receive our salvation.

    Of course we do something, we “believe.”

    “…and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

    Notice Paul and Silas didn’t say, “Oh, you don’t need to do anything. There is absolutely NOTHING you can do to receive salvation.”

    How then do we believe that we must do something to keep it?

    Because the Bible says so. It says we need to “remain,” “continue,” “endure” in the faith, etc. Likewise, we are repeatedly warned that if we do not remain, continue or endure, we will certainly perish.

    It does not depend on us. If it did, NO ONE would be able to keep it, because no one is good enough or can be perfect in their belief and in their faith on their own.

    But faith is actually our depending on God. That is what faith means. We trust in Him and depend on Him to do what we cannot. That is why faith excludes boasting, because faith looks away from self and to God. It receives a free and undeserved gift from God. Even our faith is enabled by God and He gives us the power to continue in the faith and remain in Him. The only thing you are missing is that this power does not guarantee that we will continue or remain. It is not irresistible. Hence the numerous warnings in Scripture to endure, continue, remain, etc.

    I read this somewhere:

    We are like a small child, walking over treacherous terrain with a loving father, clutching onto his hand. He tells us to hold on and not let go. We want to hold on – but we are small and weak, and we are becoming so tired. It is such a long, difficult walk. We trip on a rock, and we let go. Are we lost? How can we be lost, with a loving father gripping our tiny hand in his big strong one. We let go – but He would never let go. He is more than able to hold on, and because we are His, He loves us far too much to let go even when in our weakness we fail to hold tightly enough to Him.

    This parable is nice. I really don’t have a problem with it except for the conclusion it draws at the end (or you draw from it). Again, it is not an issue of God helping us or keeping us. It is a matter of our wanting to be kept. Even in the parable it says “we want to hold on.” The Bible is clear that while God’s desire is for us to hold on, He does not cause us to hold on irresistibly (hence the numerous warnings against falling away). God will not hold on to one who has turned away from Him. Indeed, Jesus says that those who do not remain will be cut off by the Father Himself (John 15).

    Romans 5:9-11

    Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    He DIED for us when we were his ENEMIES! Now that we are His loved ones, will He ever let us go?

    Not while we remain in Him, but the Bible is clear that we can fall away, that our love can grow cold, that we can receive His grace in vain, be cut off from Christ, be severed from Christ, be broken off from the elect people of God, be disowned by God, and so on. We can make ourselves His enemies again through our rejection of God or love of the world (James 4:4). The issue is not whether or not a true believer can remain. He or she certainly can as God empowers each believer to remain in Him. The issue is whether or not a true believer can fall away, and the Bible is clear that we can.

    Personally, it is not a big deal for me if you want to hold to eternal security, so long as that belief does not cause you to take your faith and relationship with Christ less seriously. I am only addressing your comments because I want you to see why such verses are not very convincing to those who reject eternal security, especially in light of the numerous warnings in Scripture to remain, continue and endure, etc. If God causes our faith to endure irresistibly, then it would be nonsense for God to also call on His people to remain, continue, endure, etc. It would be like telling someone hooked to a respirator to “keep breathing.”

    I would love to believe that God will never let believers fall away. Who wouldn’t want to believe that? The only reason I reject it is because I am convinced the Bible does not teach it.

    I hope to address your other comments as well, but I am not sure when I will be able to find the time.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  473. To add to this, I would also say that The greek word for ‘save’ in the New Testament is sozo. ‘Save’ is in the present, ongoing passive tense, so when we read “By grace are we SAVED through faith….” in Ephesians 2:8, what is being said is not “by grace were we saved” but “by grace, are we currently BEING saved” The idea that one can say a prayer, or have a moment in life in which they “believe” that Jesus died on the cross and rose and be “saved” is simply not in the Bible. Salvation is something that must be lived, it is a relationship with Jesus that can not happen by being “saved” once back when you were a kid in Sunday school, it is a lifestyle and way of acting and thinking that is Christ centered.

  474. Hello, it’s me again, I have a question. I would be grateful if you could answer.
    I was a Calvinist for a few years since I believed in Jesus. For a long time I could not understand how people can believe anything other than predestination. But a few weeks ago I simply doubted Calvinism, and every day I’m more and more away from this. The verse which made me believe in predestination from the very start was:

    And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

    NASB Matthew 13:10-12

    I don’t know how to understand this passage. To me, it seems like Jesus says: “I say in parables because I don’t want them to be saved”, and that convinced me of Calvinism and predestination. It seems like they are not elected, and Jesus says in parables for them not to understand and not to be saved.

    Can anybody tell me how to understand this verse according to Arminian perspective?

    Greetings

  475. And one more question:

    A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

    NASB Acts 16:14

    Isn’t this verse seem to be the support for idea that faith comes only from God, that God opens the heart and causes faith, according to Calvinist idea that man can’t believe on his own?
    Also:

    fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith,

    NASB Hebrews 12:2

    Please help.

  476. Marius,

    Regarding 1 John 3:7-10, there is nothing there to suggest that one cannot abandon the faith. What it does say is that no one can continually practice sin (in that it would characterize his lifestyle) and be born again. A born again person will not have a life that is characterized by continual sin. That doesn’t mean those who are born again never sin (2:1), but it does mean that they will not live a sinful lifestyle (3:4-6).

    Throughout this epistle John is contrasting the lifestyles of those who are born again and those who are not. Those who are born again (children of God) live lives that reflect the character of the Father and the Son. God’s children will behave in a godly manner while those who are not God’s children will behave in an ungodly manner. Because of this, we can be sure that anyone who denies Christ by profession or by lifestyle is not a child of God (2:9, 11, 18-23; 3:4-6, 10; 4:1-6, etc.). The new spiritual life of the believer is evidenced through righteous living (2:3-6, 29, etc.). This is a concern for John because he is combating false teaching that would suggest that one can live like the devil and still belong to God (3:7, 8). He is also helping his readers to be able to identify false teachers by the way that they live.

    But again, there is nothing here that would suggest that one who is a child of God cannot fall away from faith and cease to be a child of God. There is only the reality that if one is a child of God, that person will live like it and bear fruit that gives evidence to that fact. However, John does repeatedly warn his readers (who are believers, cf. 2:12-14; 2:20, 27; 3:2) to remain in Christ and continue to follow Him and the true teaching of the gospel (2:15, 24, 28; 3:7, 24; 5:21). It would be senseless to encourage true believers to remain in the faith if it was impossible to fall away.

    All of this is in harmony with John’s gospel where in chapter 15 Jesus makes it very clear that one who is in Christ can yet be cut off from Him, wither, die and be thrown into the fire if that person does not “remain” in Him.

    I will try to address your other questions sometime this weekend.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  477. With respect, I must question one of your statements. You say a born again believer will not live a sinful lifestyle, yet we see many who have and have repented. When it says believers can not sin, I think it means that they will not give their lives wholeheartedly over to the old sin nature, i.e they will not treat sin as though it is ok. The problem a lot pf people have is with the apparent disconnect between the teaching that a believer can not sin, and the teaching that someone who willfully sins has no more sacrifice to depend on. The thing is, once someone has returned to their old carnal nature and has rejected Jesus, i.e willfully sinned or apostatized, it is as if they were never saved. Nothing they did as a believer will be credited to them, because without Jesus as savior, they are just dead in trespasses and sins, and any works they did would be in vain. Jesus says to the ones who enter into hell “depart, I never knew you” yet we know he does know all of us, sinner and saint alike, so to say He never knew us to me is a figurative way of saying “your life was in vain” He rejects those who reject Him, and when He rejects them, it is utterly and eternally. I don’t think we can say a Christian will never have a habitual sin habit, because we all stray from Him at times and get caught up in sins and faults. However, when one has rejected Him as savior, one has willfully sinned, and is thus as if they were never known by Him.

  478. Matthew,

    I know you like to give your input here, but this thread is for questions. If you have a specific question, then feel free to ask. I don’t mind you sharing your opinion from time to time but it is getting to the point where you are commenting on just about anything someone says. That is not what this is for.

    With regards to your comment, I basically agree. It seems to be more of an issue of semantics. In your second sentence, you say, “You say a born again believer will not live a sinful lifestyle, yet we see many who have and have repented.” In your last statements, you put it differently and say, “I don’t think we can say a Christian will never have a habitual sin habit, because we all stray from Him at times and get caught up in sins and faults.

    There is a difference, in my opinion, between what you are expressing in the second sentence and in your conclusions.

    A Christian may struggle with a certain sin and struggle for some time with it, but it is a struggle because it is contrary to his born again nature and the Spirit that lives in Him. What John is addressing is a lifestyle of sin (not just a struggle with a certain sinful habit). He is addressing one who sins without any struggle because the person sees no real problem with willfully sinning. So his life is characterized by sin, and not by godliness. His primary orientation is towards sin and ungodliness. Such a person is not born again. That is different than a born again Christian who struggles with a certain sinful habit.

    That is the contrast I was trying to express when I wrote,

    That doesn’t mean those who are born again never sin (2:1), but it does mean that they will not live a sinful lifestyle (3:4-6).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  479. I thought it was for believers to discuss questions that were posed. I will unsubscribe.

  480. Matthew,

    Sorry that you got the wrong idea. The thread is for asking questions related to Calvinism and Arminianism. My intention was to create a safe place for people to ask questions and get answers (primarily from me and the other administrator at my blog). Over time others began to occasionally chime in to help answer questions, and typically I did not have a problem with it as long as it lined up with the theology that this blog endorses. Sometimes I would ask for others to address a question if it was one that I didn’t know how to answer. But the intention was never to have a full on discussion forum. That can create an intimidating environment for those who are asking questions where they can feel overly criticized. It can also quickly lead to extended debates, often about minor points, which, again, is not the intended purpose of this thread.

    In light of how recent questions have been addressed by outsiders, I felt the need to remind everyone of the intended purpose of this particular page and to try to pull the reins back a little.

    However, there are plenty of posts on the main page that can be explored and commented on where discussion and differences of opinion are freely encouraged.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  481. Marius,

    On Lydia, the language actually favors the Arminian interpretation. It makes more sense if the passage is speaking about enablement rather than irresistible causation. In the passage, Luke is focusing in on a certain individual coming to faith and explaining a part of the process, God opening the heart to believe. That is what Arminians believe. God must enable us to believe the gospel. That is all the passage tells us. The passage does not say that faith was the irresistible result of God opening the heart, only that God’s opening the heart led to her believing,enabled her to believe, with the result (in this particular case) that she actually believed.

    Furthermore, Calvinists claim that God must give us a new heart before we can believe the gospel (and wrongly refer to Ezek. 36:26). But this passage in Acts says nothing of a new heart. Rather, God opened up her old heart to believe. In other words, despite her depravity, God enabled her to believe and this enablement did not require giving her a new heart first. So the passage really doesn’t fit well with the Calvinist claim, but it does fit perfectly with the Arminian view of prevenient grace.

    Here is a good article on the opening of Lydia’s heart:

    http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/NT/Acts16_14.html

    Regarding the Calvinist understanding of Ezekiel 36:26, see this post:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/ezekiel-3626-27/

  482. Marius,

    On your question about Hebrews 12:2, here is something I wrote to another commenter on that passages a while back,

    Briefly. On Hebrews 12:2, it is true that Christ is the perfecter of our faith, but there is no reason to think that He perfects our faith irresistibly. Indeed, just the opposite is plainly implied as it is the reason we are to “look to” Him and “throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles”, that we might “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

    Now, if Christ irresistibly causes faith in us and irresistibly causes us to continue in the faith (or perfects our faith), such language becomes rather pointless, and so do the warnings throughout Hebrews and the NT as a whole. It would be like warning someone hooked to a respirator to “keep breathing.”

    He is the “founder/pioneer” of our faith as He is the object of our faith and His life and death is the foundation of our faith. His life of endurance is the example we must look to in order to find the courage and strength to endure our own struggle (12:2-4)

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/questions/#comment-9622

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  483. Marius,

    I just realized you also asked about Matthew 13:11-12. I will have to get back to you on that as I am out of time for now.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  484. I’m looking for an extensive overview of the Old Testament from an Arminian perspective to compare to Greg Koukl’s Bible Fast Forward . If it exist in a format for a lay person, I’ve yet to find it. Please lend any advice you can. I’m trying to do it on my own knowledge and it would help to have a reference, as thorough, as his.

    Mel