Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Controls Salvation?

I've been doing a lot of reading, listening and watching as I research and prepare my series defending Calvinism. As I said, I'm no high-powered scholar, so I like to get all my ducks in a row. I probably take more time then I really need too, but I like to be well prepared.

Anyway, one thing I've been doing is listening to a lot of debates on the subject of Calvinism, including a debate between James White and George Bryson. I was particularly struck by Dr. White's closing statement, and I thought you might find it edifying as well.



Meanwhile, my post on Unconditional Election should be up first thing in the morning in the near future.

post signature

102 comments:

Fisher said...

'Tis quite edifying indeed. :)

God bless.

Craig and Heather said...

Squirrel,
Is this fellow saying God doesn't love everyone?

If so, do you agree?
Craig

The Squirrel said...

Craig,

White is saying that God does not love everyone in the same way that He loves His elect. And I would agree with that.

God's relationship with the lost is the relationship of Judge to convict, and there is an element of impersonal detachment there. While His relationship to those who are in Christ is personal and of a completely different order.

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Further, God shows His love to the perishing through His forbearance and through His common grace. Everyone, the saved and the unsaved alike, get to enjoy creation while they are here.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
(Matthew 5:44-45 NASB)

~Squirrel

Craig and Heather said...

Good answer Mr. Squirrel,
I was thinking about how God's patience and longsuffering toward everyone is a striking example of his love for mankind. Sort of meditating on the idea of how God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. I have seen the hyper-calvinist explanation for this, but I think it misses the verb tense, and underestimates the direction God's will is pointed. I don't believe that God will always be unwilling that any should perish. However, the reason we have not all been destroyed is that He has not currently willed it so. If He had it would have happened instantaneously. At the final judgment, he will "will" that some perish, and today He knows who they are. However, now is not the time for His vengance, now is the time for the Gospel.

My understanding of 2 Peter 3. The context is not about salvation as much as it is about the reason He has not yet come. It is about God being longsuffering. I think we underestimate what love is involved in this, because we undervalue the severity of man's depravity and rebellion.

Just my thoughts,

Craig

Jennie said...

It sounds like James White is saying that God doesn't love the whole world, even though John 3:16 says He does. But maybe I misunderstood him.
When the Bible says 'Esau have I hated' does it mean that God always and totally hates Esau, or can He love Esau in some way while still hating him maybe because of his sin and rejection of his birthright? I don't know how to explain what I mean very well; but God showed mercy even to Cain after he murdered Abel.

Jennie said...

And how does the word 'hate' in the passage about Esau compare to the use of the word in this passage in Luke 14:
25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Craig and Heather said...

It sounds like James White is saying that God doesn't love the whole world, even though John 3:16 says He does.

I struggle with this concept a bit. And listening to the way some Calvinists explain "election" and the means of salvation often leaves me with a bad taste.

I actually agree with the concept of salvation being God's work alone. And I also believe that God chooses to redeem who He will, so my problem isn't that I disbelieve the argument. There is just "something" that leaves me feeling vaguely hopeless.

I can't quite put my finger on what bothers me, but listening to certain speakers sometimes leaves me feeling a little concerned that I haven't actually been chosen, I am just fooling myself, and there is nothing I can do to change it...

Jennie, I believe that, in a sense, God loves the "whole world" (after all, He created it) and through Jesus' sacrifice, He purchased back that which Adam handed over to Satan's control.

In reading about Esau, Pharaoh, etc, it does appear that God intends to only redeem certain aspects of that which He has paid for and I believe that apart from His bringing dead souls to life, there is no hope for any of us.

I suppose God's love for the world is similar to the patience of the landowner in the parable of the wheat and tares. The farmer owns the whole field, waters and fertilizes the whole thing. The plants all benefit from the care--yet at harvest time, he is only interested in the plants which have mature seed heads. Everything else gets burned up.

God's ways certainly are above mine.



Heather

Lockheed said...

I think it might be noted that God's love for the "world" in John 3:16 is clarified in v17-18 and elsewhere. To assume that world = "each and every person who ever lived" is to deny much of the rest of Scripture.

God has a special love for his church, the bride of Christ. Much like my love for my wife differs from my love for my coworkers, God's love for his elect differs from his love for the non-believer.

Keep in mind, however, God's love is gracious, that is, he loved us while we yet hated him and sent His Son to die for us. None of us deserve God's love, or salvation, but he bestows it on undeserving sinners apart from any condition they must fulfill, for like sheep, we have all gone astray.

Lockheed said...

There is just "something" that leaves me feeling vaguely hopeless.

Good, for apart from God's mercy, we're all hopelessly lost. When you fear that you may not have been chosen, that is the time to draw near to the cross and appeal to Christ. After all, it is about God's mercy and grace, not about your ability to meet the commandments.


Jennine - God's feeling for Esau is the same as that for Pharaoh, whom God states He created for the purpose of showing His might and power and graciousness... by destroying him.

We cannot question God's choosing, Romans 9 is quite clear on this, but we can rejoice that God has chosen to save anyone, since we all deserve wrath and judgment.

Paul said...

Jennie said:
"It sounds like James White is saying that God doesn't love the whole world, even though John 3:16 says He does. But maybe I misunderstood him. "

Let James White clarify this:
John 3:16 Freed From Tradition
"Dave, I think we can agree on the fact that you believe your interpretation of John 3:16 is the key to the entire controversy. Note I said your interpretation. I do not get the idea that you realize that your view is not the only possible way of reading the words of the Lord Jesus, nor, to be honest, do I get the feeling that you have engaged in the task of exegeting even John 3:16. It is your tradition to interpret it in a particular fashion. That tradition includes two very important elements: 1) the idea that “world” means every single individual person, so that God loves each person equally (resulting in a denial of any particularity in God’s love, even in His redemptive love), and 2) that the term “whosoever” includes within its meaning a denial of particularity or election. Your assumption of these ideas underlies pretty much the entirety of your book.
Before I chose to write you this open letter, I began an article on John 3:16 and Acts 13:48. I only completed the first section of the exegesis of John 3:16, and was about to address your statements about my allegedly “twisting” the passage, so I will insert what I wrote here, and pick up with the letter itself on the other side..."

continue here if you wish:

http://vintage.aomin.org/DHOpenLetter.html

Paul said...

Jennie,
If you don't watch anything else by James White. Please watch this brief presentation on John 3:16.

Pas ho pisteuwn: 'everyone believing' not 'all can believe'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUVeorKy0HM&feature=PlayList&p=090468E85C40DEE2&index=3

Bartolucci said...

This may be a little off topic, but I'll be the first to admit that many Calvinists are joyless, doctrinairre legalists who too often operate on binary black and white presuppositions rather than on balanced exegesis. (Of course, the problem with my accusation is that none of them would own up to it!)

I have met many of these within "Reformed Baptist" circles. I remember meeting one pastor who boasted that he had "disciplined half of the people out of his church" and that's why it was so small. This was his badge of honor, sometime to boast about rather than weep over. These are the types of men who drive the sheep to their works for assurance of salvation and thus their justification, rather than to Christ.

This is why our exegesis must drive our theology, not vice-versa. (For a good treatment of God's love I'd suggest D.A. Carson's book: *The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God*.)

"Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. And this order ought to be carefully observed; for such is the wicked ambition which belongs to our nature, that when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits."

"This mode of expression, however, may appear to be at variance with many passages of Scripture, which lay in Christ the first foundation of the love of God to us, and show that out of him we are hated by God. But we ought to remember — what I have already stated — that the secret love with which the Heavenly Father loved us in himself is higher than all other causes; but that the grace which he wishes to be made known to us, and by which we are excited to the hope of salvation, commences with the reconciliation which was procured through Christ. For since he necessarily hates sin, how shall we believe that we are loved by him, until atonement has been made for those sins on account of which he is justly offended at us? Thus, the love of Christ must intervene for the purpose of reconciling God to us, before we have any experience of his fatherly kindness. But as we are first informed that God, because he loved us, gave his Son to die for us, so it is immediately
added, that it is Christ alone on whom, strictly speaking, faith ought to look. [John Calvin, comment on John 3:16]

Craig and Heather said...

Good, for apart from God's mercy, we're all hopelessly lost. When you fear that you may not have been chosen, that is the time to draw near to the cross and appeal to Christ. After all, it is about God's mercy and grace, not about your ability to meet the commandments.

Thank you, Lockheed. That is exactly where I've been for a while, now. I am acutely aware of the fact that I deserve eternal punishment and that my destiny is completely in God's hands. And I have had no choice but to beg Him to change me into the likeness of Christ.

I also understand the necessity of an ongoing attitude of repentance and humble teachability. I tend to be somewhat depressive though and have recently gone through a spiritual "pruning". Maybe I'm just overly sensitive...




This may be a little off topic, but I'll be the first to admit that many Calvinists are joyless, doctrinairre legalists who too often operate on binary black and white presuppositions rather than on balanced exegesis. (Of course, the problem with my accusation is that none of them would own up to it!) Actually, I think that is exactly on topic (at least the concern I had). "Joyless" is often how I feel after listening to some Calvinist speakers. Certain messages make me feel as though it is wrong for Christians to find any pleasure in life and that I need to constantly be grovelling for forgiveness rather than simply living in obedience to whatever God has shown me.


Heather

Jennie said...

This may be a little off topic, but I'll be the first to admit that many Calvinists are joyless, doctrinairre legalists who too often operate on binary black and white presuppositions rather than on balanced exegesis. (Of course, the problem with my accusation is that none of them would own up to it!) Actually, I think that is exactly on topic (at least the concern I had). "Joyless" is often how I feel after listening to some Calvinist speakers. Certain messages make me feel as though it is wrong for Christians to find any pleasure in life and that I need to constantly be grovelling for forgiveness rather than simply living in obedience to whatever God has shown me.

I have experienced the same things, and what Heather and Bartolucci both said reminded me of this passage:

1 Corinthians 13
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

I have been convicted of this myself, paired with Jesus' call to repentance to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3; specifically for me the passage about the church of Ephesus, who was praised for 'hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans' and standing for truth, but had lost her first love, which I think means love for Christ, but also love for the Body and for the lost.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Interesting sermon. There were points I did not agree with.

First of all, I did not think his analogy about the governor of a state pardoning prisoners on death row at will was a good one.

If a governor chooses to pardon one death row inmate and not the others, based upon nothing but his mercy, then he is capricious, indeed.

A governor, an honest decent one that is, pardons a death row inmate for a reason: usually because the inmate was found innocent, or the inmate was cooerced into the crime like Patty Hearst, or something like that. He was pardoned by the governor for a reason. For a reason.

For a governor to pick one prisoner to pardon for no reason, for no reason, would be capriciousness. Nothing more. God is not capricious. God has reasons for everything He does.

He gives human beings a part to play in their salvation. He does this. We don't do this. We don't jin this up. He is so sovereign and strong that He can choose to limit Himself by giving us pitiful humans a part to play in our salvation, just as He chose to limit Himself by coming into this world as a helpless baby. He is not threatened by giving humans a part to play in their salvation. He decided this, not us.

He decided to give us the gift of a free will (a gift that was not earned by us), and He decided to let us play a part in salvation by giving us the ability to use the measure of faith that He put within everyone of us, and the strength to do it.

We are responsible for our choice, because He decided it would be that way. I don't see how this diminishes God's sovereignty. Rather, it enhances it, because He is so strong that He can choose to limit Himself in this way. This is love.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Ok, Mrs. Multiple Comments here again. The second point I did not agree with was the idea that we are unconditionally elected (as per my last comment). This idea of unconditional election leaves people, like Heather, with the sometimes hopeless feeling that "maybe they are not the elect and there is nothing they can do about it."

I think that anybody would feel that way if they believe in unconditional election. I would.

I mean, how do you KNOW that you are the elect?

My husband pastored a Reformed church for 10 years (Reformed Church in America -- RCA -- the oldest denomination in America, brought here by the Dutch in the late 1600's and formerly called the Dutch Reformed Church).

My husband is an Assemblies of God minister. He ended up pastoring that church because the congregation could not pay the salary guideline for one of the RCA's officially ordained ministers, and so they wouldn't send them a pastor, but they were free to call their own, and called my husband. Anyway...

None of these people had any assurance of their salvation. None. I used to ask our organist, a woman about my age who had grown up in this denomination and had graduated from one of the RCA's colleges and was raised on the Heidelberg Catechism, "How do you know if you are saved?"

"We don't know," she would answer. "But I can't lose my salvation, because I'm one of the elect, and because I didn't do anything to get it, I can't do anything to lose it."

"So, how do you know if you are one of the elect," I would ask again. "We can't know," she would answer, "but we have that hope."

According to Calvin, God's elect are known only to Himself. So, you can't KNOW if you are one of the elect.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

So, anyway, Mr. Squirrel, I am writing a book, I know.

I talked to a woman once who has lived in this part of the country where there are many Reformed people.

I was mentioning in an unrelated way, after telling her that we pastored a Reformed church, that we noticed a great deal of conformity among the people in this region of the country (you don't need peer pressure here -- everybody lines up to conform).

She said that it was due to the Reformed theology that permeates the region. It goes like this:

I don't know if I am one of the elect or not. This is unnerving and disconcerting, to say the least. So, I look around the church and see people who have holiness and many good works and I say to myself, "Surely, THEY are the elect, because of their holiness and good works." So, I say to myself, "Self, if you do the same things that those people, whom I assume must be the elect, do, then it stands to reason that I must be one of the elect, too." Then I can sleep at night, but it ends up being "works" all over again.

I'm sorry I'm writing so much, but this is a passionate subject with me because of where we've been, and I'm concerned to see such a resurgance of Calvinism, which I do not believe to be a right doctrine.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

One thing that I DID agree with, was that God does not love those people that He sends to hell because they rejected His Son.

I don't think God loves those people, because, after all, He gave them a chance and they rejected His Son, so He pours His wrath out on them.

I don't see God wringing His hands over the people that He is going to throw in the lake of fire and saying, "Oh, I love them so much and now they're burning up, boo-hoo." It says that they will be tormented right in front of Him (from the parable in Luke 19, verse 27: "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.")

This verse ties in with Revelation 14:10, "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of teh holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb."

And also, Deuteronomy 25:2, "And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that thejudge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten BEFORE HIS FACE, according to his fault, by a certain number."

God is and will be a JUST judge, and because His punishment (hell) will be just, the ones who go there will be punished right in front of God and He will be able to watch because He will know that the punishment is justified.

So, no, I don't think He loves those people whom He punishes in hell.

And I think he hated Esau because long before Esau was even born or did anything wrong, God foresaw what he would do and hated him (for not caring that he would be in the line of Messiah).

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

And for Heather:

When you are feeling like maybe you are not one of the elect (and after reading so many ladies' legalistic blogs, I have felt that way too, as you know), here is a good verse:

"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the son of God." I John 5:13. WE CAN KNOW.

I'm on a roll tonight. Must be because I remembered to take my thyroid pill and haven't run out of steam.

Love all youse guys.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

And as to who controlls salvation, God controlls it, because this is the way He says it is going to be: we have a part to play. He decided that, so He is in control. And if we decide we don't want to serve Christ, well, *making knife-slicing motion across neck*, then we pay the consequences and it is our fault.

Craig and Heather said...

Mary,
I grew up in several different churches that believed in election, eternal security, and sovereignty, (don't recall anyone teaching "calvinism" but they must have been - I had never even heard of his "Institutes" or "TULIP" until about a year ago)

However, they also taught that you could know you were born again. Here is how:

Man in his old nature is in his very essence a God - hater. If you even have the desire to be in the elect, this is evidence God has begun His work in you. This means you are being saved. This would make you one of the elect. So, the thing is to examine your heart and see if you are just a snake running from the flame, or if you are moving toward God because you love Him. If you love Him, you must be His as the natural man cannot.

I don't know what Calvin taught about this, but I do believe this is what is scriptural.

Just my thoughts, And by the way, I love you and appreciate hearing what you have to say.

Craig

Carla said...

Mary,

some very interesting views you have on salvation. In one of your responses you said:

"When you are feeling like maybe you are not one of the elect (and after reading so many ladies' legalistic blogs, I have felt that way too, as you know)"

This left me curious, and I wonder if you'd be kind enough to give the blog names or urls of the women's blogs you find legalistic.

Thanks and SDG,
Carla

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Well, Carla, I don't want to name names, because these ladies mean well and most people would not find them condemning. I am a person who receives condemnation very easily -- just my personality, I guess. I take condemnation and "apply it directly to the forehead" if you know what I mean (like that TV commercial).

The sites I'm talking about imply that if you don't homeschool/wear dresses only/don't use birth control and do have a big family/ditch all your non-Christian friends/homechurch, etc., you are not really a Christian, or at least not a good Christian, although they never come right out and say that.

Not all people who homeschool and homechurch and have big families are like this, of course, but enough of them on the blogs are and it has really gotten to me, because our family underwent a horrible, horrible year last year, leaving me vulnerable to the condemnation. I mean, I'd lay awake in bed at night and cry, wondering if I had displeased the Lord, or not heard from Him, although we prayed about every decision we ever made, or if the Lord was punishing us.

Heather has helped me a lot, and I am grateful to her.

This was our year: Our oldest son ran away from college into a life of sin and we didn't even know where he was for a while; my husband resigned his church because he didn't feel right pastoring with our child living that way -- in other words, he lost his job; I ended up in the hospital for 8 days with a badly infected gall bladder that they couldn't get out lapariscopically and had to take out the old fashioned way and I could have died; our younger son failed all his finals in college due to the stress; we went "wandering in dens and caves" for a year looking for a church to fellowship with; our savings were wiped out due to medical co-payments; and my husband was diagnosed with leukemia!

That was just one year. It left us reeling and our heads spinning. Then I get on the blogs and find out that if you don't do all this stuff, you are not a good Christian, or maybe not EVEN a Christian, and due to all that stuff I mentioned, it made me very vulnerable to the condemnation.

I'm doing much better now. That was 2007/2008. Now, in 2008/2009, our lives are like the proverbial country-western record played backward: Our son repented and returned home and has joined the Air Force; we found Christians to fellowship with; my husband now pastors a new church; our younger son, although he failed the finals, managed to pass the actual courses and is doing well; God is helping us with our finances; I have pretty much healed up from my illness; and my husband's leukemia is not an active case and the doctors will just monitor it and not bother to treat it. Praise the Lord. He is good.

I am learning to take these blogs with a grain of salt. After all, we are all out there "bloviating" on our blogs, right?

I realized these ladies are not the Pope. Such a revelation, right? But, I'm thinking, "If these blogs are getting to me and I'm an older lady and a pastor's wife, what are they doing to younger ladies?" We all need to beware, and learn to eat the meat and spit out the bones.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Yes, Heather, I know what you mean. I think many churches are a curious hybrid of Armenianism/Calvinism. And some Christians are "one-point Calvinists" like Baptists, because they believe one point of Calvinism, which is "perserverance of the saints." My husband says, though, that once you take one brick in the wall of Calvinism, you eventually take the whole wall. This is why I'm not surprised that many Baptists are now going over to reformed theology. I mean, if you have no free will after salvation, you had no free will before salvation. It just follows.

So, I can see that what you say, Heather, makes sense, about if you feel drawn to the Lord and love Him, you must be one of the elect.

But true reformed theology teaches that you can't know, you can only hope or assume.

I'm with you: you can know.

Jennie said...

Mary,
Thank you for your openness and wisdom and love. I'm glad things are going better for your family now.
I agree with what you said about the Calvinist teaching on the elect making people neurotic worrying whether they are one of the elect or not, and many having no assurance of salvation. I also agree with what you said about God being able in His sovereignty and love being able to make us with free will. This is what I believe, but have trouble explaining. We cooperate with God in our salvation in the sense that when we see the truth of God's word by His grace, we can then choose whether to submit and be saved ('lose our life') or reject and rebel ('save our own life'). This submission, which is faith by God's grace, is not a work, and so is not any merit to us. Do you agree, or am I off base?

Craig and Heather said...

Mary,
I guess I wasn't very clear. What I intended to say and then got off topic was that as I went through "TULIP" (about a year ago), I realized that it is what I have been taught growing up, just not as "calvinism" but as "here is what scripture says".

I realize that "reformed" and "calvinist" are used interchangeably, but am not sure they truely are.

What I was trying to say was that in my limited experience, I have never heard "you can't know" in my Calvinist circles. The Bible clearly speaks that you can. The circles I have heard "you can't know" were Nazarine / Arminian. Not to argue, just my experience. It is surprising to me to hear that one turned around and pointed back at us. :) (means I need to think it through)

However, I believe that the truth about this topic is bigger than we can grasp with our human intellects. The Bible clearly teaches that we choose. But it also clearly teaches that God chose in advance. It clearly teaches that we are depraved, but it also clearly teaches that we are responsible for our choice. The point is that we are free to choose, but of our own nature never will chose right. My dog is in the yard, and is perfectly free to graze if he wants to, but he never will - it isn't in his nature.

I do believe that the 5 points of calvinism are pretty interdependent. I heard someone say they were a 4/4 pointer (4 points of each) I had to laugh, as I am not sure that is possible. I asked them which 4 points of each and they couldn't answer, which told me they hadn't thought that statement through.

My initial question was about God's love, as this seemed to be counter to scripture. The Bible clearly teaches that God loves the world.

Anyhow, I am interested in seeing what Squirrel says in his next installment.

Craig

The Squirrel said...

Hi, Mary,

Wow, I printed out your comments this morning, and they filled three pages. This is gonna take a little bit of time to deal with. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

:o)

First, a minor detail, Dr. White’s remarks are his closing statement in a debate, not a sermon. Although there are certainly many pastoral elements in it, it needs to be understood that there is quite a bit of context drawn from the almost 2 hours of debate that preceded these remarks.

I am also going to be dealing in detail with the doctrine of God’s Unconditional Election in my next, now a long overdue, most in this series. So I am not going to deal much with that except tangentially here in this comment.

Your critique of Dr. White’s “governor’s pardon” analogy fails at the point where you speculate on the governor’s reasons for pardoning a prisoner. The Bible is clear in that all are guilty and deserve eternal damnation. That means that all are justifiably condemned, and none are deserving of pardon in any way. I do not deny that God has reasons for His sovereign election, He is not capricious, but those reasons are God’s and are not the result of the any merit inherit in those chosen. (More on this in my next post.)

One thing I’ve noticed in reading through all the comments (not just Mary’s) is a total lack of Biblical support for the arguments against God’s sovereign election. For instance, where in the Bible does it say that God has given man free will? And exactly how free is that will? (See Jeremiah 13:23 just as one example.) God has sovereignly chosen for each and every individual on earth where and when they would be born, who their parents would be, what sex they would be, their hair color, eye color, height, bone structure, etc. & on & on. And very rarely do I hear people deny God’s right to do so. The Bible also clearly teaches, as I hope to show in my next post, that God also has chosen exactly who he intends to save.

You asked, “(H)ow do you KNOW that you are the elect?” You know that you are of the elect when you trust in Christ for your salvation, because only the elect will trust in Christ. All Christians, especially during times of disobedience, struggle with the assurance of their salvation. This is normal and is not more pronounced among Calvinists. This is a bit of a red herring. I have never heard or read a Calvinist proclaim that we cannot know if we are saved or not. Calvinists are well aware that 1 John 5:13 is in the Bible.

You said, “God foresaw what he [Esau] would do and hated him [because of what he would do.]” God’s foreknowledge is not the same as foresight. “Foreknowledge” refers to a preordained relationship (i.e. “depart from me, I never knew you.”). Neither Jacob nor Esau were exactly paragons of virtue; neither one deserved God’s love in any way, just as none of us to. (Which is exactly Paul’s point in Romans 9:10-16)

As I said, I go into much more detail in my next installment.

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Jennie,

Please see what I just said to Mary regarding assurance of salvation, as well as what Heather said that she was taught about assurance.

Calvinists do not deny that the saved can know that they are saved. And if someone lacks assurance it could be the result of either: A) they are not really saved; B) they are in a period of disobedience, or; C) they have fallen prey to false doctrine, such as legalism. Being wary of false assurance is not the same thing as denying any assurance at all.

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Correction: "what Heather said" should read "what Craig said"

"My dog is in the yard, and is perfectly free to graze if he wants to, but he never will - it isn't in his nature."

Craig, exactly so! Well stated.

~Squirrel

Jennie said...

One thing I’ve noticed in reading through all the comments (not just Mary’s) is a total lack of Biblical support for the arguments against God’s sovereign election.

I am not arguing against election. The Bible teaches it. I am just questioning the Calvinist understanding of it.

Here is a passage in Acts 17 that speaks of God commanding all men everywhere to repent, and that He is not far from each one of us.
26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Today's neo-Calvinists (or neo-reformed), at least most of them from what I've gathered, have come out of an evangelical background (Baptist or whatever) and that is reflected in their knowing that they are saved. It is a holdover, I believe.

The Reformed people we pastored are old-line reformed, and raised in it, and so were their parents and gransparents, etc. So, they say, "You can't know -- but you can hope." That's what they told us. Calvin says that God's elect are known only to Himself -- so you can't really know if that is true, can you?

I get the idea that mad has a free will from the story of the Garden of Eden. God didn't MAKE them sin. If He did, then He would be the author of evil. However, He allowed it. And foreknew about it, that is why Christ was "slain from the foundations of the world" for the sins of mankind, since God knew what man would do.

I do believe man's free will is limited. God allows man to go so far and no more.

Yes, people like the Nazarenes, from what I am told, are hyper-you-can-lose-your-salvation, as is a group that my husband and I belonged to when we were young. I mean, these folks figure that every time you hammer your thumb cuss, you have lost your salvation -- like six or eight times and day, and have to get "re-saved" six or eight times a day. That is an unbiblical extreme and will put you in the nut-house. There you go, Squirrel -- in the nut-house! Thanks for putting up with my "book."

Do you think many Calvinists teach no-free-will to extreme? Every belief or movement has its extreme believers.

Jennie, I think I agree with everything you said.

I believe in man having inherited Adam's sinful nature and being unable to ever work his way to heaven by his own goodness, but totaly depraved? No. And I don't agree with the analogy about a dog grazinig in a field.

A dog and a cow are two different creations with different natures.

Human beings are created in the image of God. We do have the stamp of God upon us, and even unbelievers will do good works, although their motives are not pure.

To say that God creates totally depraved creatures is to say that He creates evil. God does not create evil.

Many people say, "Well, God created Satan, so He created evil."

God did not create Satan. God created Lucifer, who used his God-given free will to sin and he became Satan.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

What I'm saying is that by pastoring that old main-line Reformed denomination, we saw the end result of Calvinism. The neo-Calvinists of today are evangelistic and know they are saved in spite of Calvinism, not because of it, because they come out of evangelical backgrounds and brought that with them. Will it last? I think not.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Like you said in the verse, Jennie, God commands ALL men everywhere to repent. They are able to do so, because God has enabled them to do so. Nobody can come to Christ unless the Father draw him; however, Jesus said that if He was lifted up, he would draw ALL men unto him. Many are called (drawn) -- few are chosen (the ones who respond are chosen or the elect). That's my understanding.
The old "turn or burn."

Jennie said...

Squirrel,
Calvinists do not deny that the saved can know that they are saved.


Yes, but the problem is the practical result of the doctrine that some are the elect, but that a person can't know if he is elect. People get fixated on trying to figure out if they ARE in the elect instead of trusting and submitting to God. I think Mary said that people either just think they have to wait until judgment day to find out (which is what Catholics do) or they think they have to prove it by works (which also is similar to what Catholics do). Something is seriously wrong when teaching leads people to this kind of confusion. I know this is not always the case, but it happens often.

The Squirrel said...

Jennie:

Yes, it’s true. God does command all men to repent. In fact, God commands all men to be perfect (Matthew 5:28,) the feat of which none of us is able. God’s Word is full of commands that none of us, on our own, are able to obey. This in no way mitigates our culpability for not obeying, nor our guilt before God.

With regard to assurance of salvation, I had never seen the attitude to which you and Mary are alluding. I don’t know how widespread it truly is. I do know that this is more of a problem with Puritanism rather than Calvinism. The question is, “where do you look for your assurance? To yourself or to Christ?” The puritans all too often pointed to people’s works as the proof of their salvation, while Calvin said that to look to oneself is deadly and that there is no assurance in self.

~Squirrel

Jennie said...

Why should it be any harder for us who live after Christ's sacrifice to turn to God than it was for the Israelites, who were given a choice between life and death, and commanded to turn to the LORD and obey Him and love Him? See the following passage:

Deuteronomy 30
For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, 10 if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
The Choice of Life or Death

11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Jennie said...

Some thoughts I wrote down today:

Calvinism (and probably Arminianism, I don’t claim either) is a man-made system of theology formulated to try to explain God’s process of salvation as it is set out in scripture. Calvinism is trying to explain parts of salvation that are unexplainable, because God has ordained that there are things that we as humans will not be able to understand.

Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists need to admit that their theologies are just that: theologies; NOT scripture. Calvinism is not the gospel, because it is not God’s word; it is only an explanation of parts of scripture according to mans’ understanding of it. Calvinists should cease to create false dichotomies, such as monergism and synergism, between believers by making up definitions based on whether believers conform to Calvinist theology or not, instead of whether they conform to scripture or not. All sides need to admit that their theories are only their understanding, and that there are other theories which still fall within biblical understanding that are just as valid, and that all of us and our views may be wrong, or partly wrong.

It is arguable that Calvin’s teaching on election is based not wholly on scripture, but on the teachings of Augustine, who also based much of his teachings on human philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle. See http://www.inplainsite.org/html/three_men_and_calvinism.html and http://www.inplainsite.org/html/calvins_catholic_connection.html.

Here is a critique of Calvinism by a former Calvinist: http://www.inplainsite.org/html/calvinism.html
And some excerpts from Dave Hunt’s refutation of Calvinism: http://www.inplainsite.org/html/calvinism_powerful_refutation.html

A question: What is the importance of insisting on the Calvinistic interpretation of scripture? Does it help unbelievers to understand the gospel better? On the contrary, I think it is confusing and actually revolting in many of its doctrines.


Here are some passages of scripture I found:

Luke 13:24 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Eph. 1: 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who[b] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Deuteronomy 30
Joshua 24
Acts 2:40
Mark 4:11-12
Mark 6:6

Paul said...

Jennie said:
"It is arguable that Calvin’s teaching on election is based not wholly on scripture, but on the teachings of Augustine, who also based much of his teachings on human philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle. See http://www.inplainsite.org/html/three_men_and_calvinism.html"

An excerpt from:
Three Men and Calvinism
by Sydney Hunter

"A specific illustration of Calvin's treatment of those of unorthodox religious views is found in the death of Michael Servetus. Servetus did have unorthodox views of the Trinity. He was not Unitarian. His problem seemed to be in distinguishing between the eternal Son of God and the Son of the eternal God. (Incidentally, the Calvinist writer, A.W. Pink, denied the eternal Sonship of Christ on page 50 of his Exposition of Hebrews.) Servetus held other beliefs Calvin considered unorthodox. He was premillennial. He rejected Calvin's doctrine of predestination. His big "heresy" however was his rejection of infant baptism. In fact, during his trial the marginal notes he had made in Calvin's Institutes against infant baptism, were used against him. He admitted infant baptism was a "diabolical invention and infernal falsehood destructive to Christianity."

Jennie,
You have already admitted that David Cloud "is not a historian". I also contend that neither Dave Hunt nor Sydney Hunter are historians either. These men are willing to use anything they think they can get away with to disparage Calvin. They are not alone, Roman Catholic apologists have been doing the same thing for years. Here's an example:
Calvin and the charge of Sodomy
http://www.surprisedbytruth.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=6003&SearchTerms

For a balanced view of The Calvin/ Servetus incident. The first portion of this video is of Oneness Theologian Robert Sabin presenting Miguel Servetus as an innocent nonconformist. Starting at the 44 minute point James White gives "The Rest Of The Story".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL4iz6nPvQs&feature=channel

brigand said...

This is a strange thread indeed.

Calvinism is confusing and revolting.

It's revolting because it points out the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

The futility that you have any merit of your own that you can present to God as acceptable in His sight.

The absolute desperate need for redemption outside of yourself, that can only be obtained by faith in Christ alone.

And the amazing grace of God that he would freely justify those wretched sinners who deserve His wrath.

So, Calvinism answers the following:
1) The nature of God.
2) The nature of man.
3) Man's present state of enmity with God.
4) How man can have peace with God.

That's confusing and revolting enough for the carnally-minded, there's no doubt of that. There are plenty who wish to denigrate God, exalt man, erase the chasm between, etc. Then the dominoes fall everywhere else -- no justification for the sinner, no rejoicing in the unmerited favor of God, no need for redemption.

Are those things that Calvinists hold before the sinner (like, their sin, and Christ's righteousness) *so irrelevant* to the Gospel message?

Alas, I will continue to present the Gospel in this revolting fashion, for I am well aware that the cross is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. However, for the elect, is for them, the power of God unto salvation. And so I am freed to preach Christ without reservation, in full confidence that He does indeed redeem His people who hear His word.

Paul said...

Sydney Hunter said:

"He was not Unitarian. His problem seemed to be in distinguishing between the eternal Son of God and the Son of the eternal God. (Incidentally, the Calvinist writer, A.W. Pink, denied the eternal Sonship of Christ on page 50 of his Exposition of Hebrews.)"

The attempt at comparing Pink's view of "eternal Sonship" (which is the same view that John MacArthur held until recently) with the view of Servetus is simply ridiculous.

Craig and Heather said...

Mary, thank you for reminding me that believers can know we are saved. I believe we can have assurance. I just don't always *feel* like I am in the right place.

Jennie said: People get fixated on trying to figure out if they ARE in the elect instead of trusting and submitting to God. That is something I only struggled with after being introduced to the teaching about "election". I literally was sick to my stomach worrying that I'm just a "wannabe" Christian who is pounding on the locked gate and will be burned with the other dead branches on judgment day.

Interestingly, I recently read a short post concerning this problem. I thought it was very helpful in clearing up the question of whether I should be stewing over being one of "the elect". http://theviolenttakeitbyforce.blogspot.com/2009/07/many-persons-want-to-know-their.html

Heather

Craig and Heather said...

For the record, I'm not pro- or anti-Calvinist. I'm not familiar enough with his writings to be able to say i agree or disagree. I am somewhat familiar with TULIP and don't disagree with what I understand of it. John Calvin was a man, and I expect his understanding of Scripture included some error as well as some things of value. We each need to "be Berean" and compare all teachings to Scripture while asking God to reveal His truth to us.

Yes, Squirrel, I agree that a questioning of salvation can be a result of one of your three options. Sometimes I have carried guilt of some sinful attitude or behavior and I've come across a lot of disturbing teachings while surfing the net. I've read pages that accuse well-known pastors (whom I happen to respect) of being false teachers. I've seen proof-text sprinkled articles announcing that all Calvinists and all Arminians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists etc are heretics. I got hold of one site that proclaimed that only those who live an "agrarian", debt-free, commune-centered lifestyle are truly God's elect. My faith has been strongly tested by such things and I've had no choice but to run crying to God and begging Him to be merciful (in not immediately striking me dead so I could correct whatever I need to first) and show me what is true. Thankfully, He has grown me through it, even though I still don't have all the answers..



Somewhere in the piles of theological argument is a simplicity that Jesus likened to becoming "as a child" in order to enter into His Kingdom (Matt. 18:2-4). In John 3:3, He told Nicodemus that unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Babies are helpless--totally dependent on their parents for nourishment, shelter, and clothing.

All I know to do is to plead with God to feed me on His Word, protect and cleanse me from evil, and clothe me with Christ's righteousness so I may appear presentable when I stand before God's throne.

Circling back to the title of this post...

I believe absolutely that God is the one who controls salvation. Whether it is through "predestination" or "foreknowledge" or whatever we want to call it, God is ultimately Judge over all and will have the last word as to who is and who is not to enter into eternity with Him. I don't claim to understand how all the details pan out. But I trust that God knows what He's doing.

Heather.

Jennie said...

Paul and Brigand,
I am trying to show that Calvin's doctrines of Election are not wholly based on scripture, and are only one of several theologies that fall within the pale of true Christianity. Non-Calvinists, including those you call Arminians, can be true believers also, just as Calvinists can. It is likely that none of these theologies is correct, but all may be only partly correct, as I said. You both latched onto secondary issues instead of the issues I mentioned that are troubling for Calvinism. Please stop insisting on separating believers with your labels. Calvin did it in his day, and you and James White are continuing it today.

Brigand, You did not ask me which doctrines I or others find revolting, but sarcastically listed your own assumptions of what I might mean. You are incorrect in your assumptions. The superior and ridiculing attitude of some is part of what is revolting, by the way.
Also revolting is the view that God arbitrarily chose some from the foundation of the world to be reprobated without any hope of salvation. This is a total misunderstanding of the scriptural teaching of election.
The point is that there are other views just as valid as Calvin's, and some may be more valid. Or all may be wrong.

Jennie said...

Brigand,
That's confusing and revolting enough for the carnally-minded, there's no doubt of that. There are plenty who wish to denigrate God, exalt man, erase the chasm between, etc. Then the dominoes fall everywhere else -- no justification for the sinner, no rejoicing in the unmerited favor of God, no need for redemption.

Neither David Cloud, nor Dave Hunt, nor the other authors I linked to, nor myself, are trying to deningrate God, exalt man, erase the chasm, negate justification, grace, or the need for redemption. Again you are trying to create false separations between true believers. All these men, and myself, are true believers, and show all the signs of being true believers who love God and His word.

Jennie said...

Paul,
The issue with Michael Servetus only highlights what I am trying to say. It is likely that both Servetus and Calvin were wrong on some or many points, but Calvin, believing his state had the right to punish people for holding 'incorrect' beliefs (whether Servetus was incorrect or not is immaterial) allowed Servetus to be executed for this. This is not the gospel, and God is our judge, not Calvin. Calvin should have taken the log out of his own eye before judging Michael Servetus. It is not certain that Servetus' views were outside Christianity, nor is it certain that if some of his beliefs were wrong that he was not truly a regenerate Christian. I don't know enough about his beliefs or his character to judge, but I do know there is unresolved controversy about these things, so I don't know if we can know for sure. Only God knows.

Jennie said...

Heather,
I've seen proof-text sprinkled articles announcing that all Calvinists and all Arminians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists etc are heretics. I got hold of one site that proclaimed that only those who live an "agrarian", debt-free, commune-centered lifestyle are truly God's elect. My faith has been strongly tested by such things and I've had no choice but to run crying to God and begging Him to be merciful (in not immediately striking me dead so I could correct whatever I need to first) and show me what is true. Thankfully, He has grown me through it, even though I still don't have all the answers..

Many people who truly love the Lord and are responding to His call have been hurt by attitudes like the ones you've encountered. I think this is much more displeasing to the Lord then people holding some incorrect doctrines. I like to be 'right' just as much as anyone, but I have to learn to show love and to judge myself rightly first, before I can judge others.

arlinton said...

> Brigand, You did not ask me which
> doctrines I or others find revolting,
> but sarcastically listed your own
> assumptions of what I might mean.

I'm just a passer by, but Brigand stated an objective fact that Calvinists proclaim. In your reply you subjectively assumed his comment was targeted at you - this is not the case.

What's needed is an objective view on things and with that points will be made clearly. The subjective views of anything -- especially scripture tend to lead conversations into muddy territory.

The Squirrel said...

I literally was sick to my stomach worrying that I'm just a "wannabe" Christian who is pounding on the locked gate and will be burned with the other dead branches on judgment day.

Heather,

I would have to say that this strikes me more as a result of poor pasturing as opposed to poor theology. Since the scriptures are clear that the natural man does not seek after God, the fact that this even concerns you, or anyone for that matter, is really a good sign. The regenerate person still sins, but they detest their sin at the same time, while the natural man revels in his sin with only fleeting thoughts of guilt that manage to break through, momentarily, his seared conscience. Read Jesus is words in John 3:19-21 and understand that if you are even willing to examine your deeds in the light of scripture, then you are one of the believing ones whom Christ came to save.

I believe there is much worthwhile in the blog article you linked to, and it agrees with what I wrote earlier, “The question is, “where do you look for your assurance? To yourself or to Christ?” The puritans all too often pointed to people’s works as the proof of their salvation, while Calvin said that to look to oneself is deadly and that there is no assurance in self.”

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Jennie,

Here are some brief historical facts regarding the Servetus affair.

• Calvin was not the ruler of Geneva when Servetus was executed; in fact Calvin was not even a citizen of Geneva at that time. The facts are clear that it was not John Calvin who had Michael Servetus executed.

• Michael Servetus denied the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. It is an undisputable historical fact that Servetus was a heretic, which was illegal all throughout Europe at that time. Calvin thought he was a heretic, and so did just about everybody else.

• Servetus knew that if he came to Geneva, he would be arrested. He came anyway.

• Geneva sought the opinions of every other Canton is Switzerland’s advice over what to do with Servetus, and, without exception, all said he should be burned.

• Calvin led the other ministers in Geneva in lobbying for a more humane method of execution then burning, they were overruled.

In regards to theology, anytime any of us look at a passage of scripture and try to figure out what exactly it means by what it says, we are engaging in theology. The question then arises, “Is our theology coherent, rational, and consistent or is it incoherent, irrational, and inconsistent?” I did not come to my understanding of the Doctrines of Grace from the pages of John Calvin, but from the pages of Scripture. I have said before, and I say again now, that I do not agree with every single thing that John Calvin ever taught.

I have tried to avoid expressing until now my opinions regarding David Cloud, however at this point I must say something. Someone who is so irrational as to hold to the King James Only position cannot be considered a careful theologian or a credible source. When you see someone who is committed to something as completely unsupportable as KJVO-ism, it must bring into question their reasoning ability in general, and would require that all of their positions be examined not just with a grain of salt, but with the full shaker.

I must admit that after reading Debating Calvinism, I have similar opinions regarding Dave Hunt. The entire book, essentially a printed debate between James White and Dave Hunt, shows clearly that Dave hunt is not a careful exegete of scripture. The book is available online here [http://www.scribd.com/doc/4779606/DEBATING-CALVINISM-Dave-Hunt-and-James-White], and I would encourage you to take the time and read it. And ask yourself, “Who is dealing honestly with the text of the scriptures, White or Hunt?”

I am not saying that either of these men are not Christians, true born again believers. But what I am saying is that they are clearly not the best judges of the truth of any doctrine, not just Calvinism. The fact is, the more I look into the objections to Calvinism, the more I’ve come to understand that they are primarily emotionally based and not scripturally based. I have yet to see anyone actually deal with the text of scripture from which Calvinist derive their doctrines.

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

By "either of these men" (above) I refer to Cloud and Hunt.

Craig and Heather said...

I would have to say that this strikes me more as a result of poor pasturing as opposed to poor theology....Read Jesus is words in John 3:19-21 and understand that if you are even willing to examine your deeds in the light of scripture, then you are one of the believing ones whom Christ came to save.

That is possible. I also tend toward depression in the winter months (when I first encountered "Calvinistic" teaching) and blow things WAY out of proportion during that time.

I did just re-read the verses in John and agree with you. If I could describe my experience with Jesus' light, it would be like deliberately walking from a dark room into bright sunlight... even though it is stabbing pain into my eyeballs.

It can be excruciating to be shown layer after layer of sin that lies under the "Christian-y" surface. Just when I start to think I'm "okay", I get another wake up call and the longer I am a believer, the more aware I become of the extent of my own sinfulness. Sometimes I'll get blindsided by a really prevalent attitude or habit and wonder how in the world I could have considered myself to be a believer for so many years while *that* issue had been looming over my heart. Perhaps that is where my "salvation assurance crises" actually come from.


Craig and I have often considered that God is merciful to allow us time to heal after He prunes us. If He cut away all the sinful stuff all at once the shock would probably kill me.

Heather.

Jennie said...

Squirrel,
whether or not Dave Hunt and David Cloud are careful exegetes (which may or may not be true), I still object to the divisions that Calvinists set up between believers by their definitons and their assumptions that the doctrine cannot be wrong, but everyone who does not agree with them is a 'synergist' who denigrates God's sovereignty.
Also, Hunt and Cloud are not the only ones who disagree with Calvinism, and there are many who may be better exegetes and also better understand the whole picture of the scriptures.

Craig and Heather said...

I believe there is much worthwhile in the blog article you linked to, and it agrees with what I wrote earlier, “The question is, “where do you look for your assurance? To yourself or to Christ?

Craig and I both really appreciate that blog. The young men who author it display a godly humility and they post quite a lot of interesting material that I would not have otherwise had a chance to review.

H

brigand said...

on-Calvinists, including those you call Arminians, can be true believers also, just as Calvinists can."

Who said Arminians aren't Christians? Calvinism teaches the basics of Biblical Christianity -- namely, that man is called to repent and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, not that it is contingent upon signing on to all that falls under the soteriological umbrella.

" You both latched onto secondary issues instead of the issues I mentioned that are troubling for Calvinism."

I did not latch on to secondary issues -- I put the primary issues of Calvinism, and the Gospel, in the fore, in order to help you to understand more central issues that concern those of us who consider ourselves Calvinists.

" Please stop insisting on separating believers with your labels."

Theism, non-theism. Are these "just labels"? Labels aren't for separation, Jennie, they're for understanding. You put labels on envelopes so that the postman knows where to deliver them. You put labels on major concepts so you know what the main talking points are when you're having a conversation.

"The superior and ridiculing attitude of some is part of what is revolting, by the way."

I find these attitudes prevelant in man, across the board. Hardly unique to Calvinism. I fail in expunging these attitudes and more from my heart every day. I am still in need of God's grace for sanctification.

"All these men, and myself, are true believers ..."

I notice there are exceptions here.

" Calvin should have taken the log out of his own eye before judging Michael Servetus."

Calvin held no civil office, and therefore could not pronounce judgment upon him. You'll have to look to the magistrates of Geneva, which included Calvin's local theological opposition, the Anabaptists.

Neither do I think that God electing wretched undeserving sinners unto salvation is either arbitrary or revolting. To me, it's amazing that he would save anyone at all. Would you mind reading over Ephesians 1 & 2 and explain what you think the Biblical doctine of election is based on Paul's writing here? What is the ground of God's actions concerning election prior to creation?

Jennie said...

Squirrel,
While I don't agree with Reverend Cloud on his KJV only stance, I don't think it is fair to say that a reasonable man would not hold such a view. He's a fair minded man who carefully considers his beliefs, and has good reasons for them. Bringing that up in order to disparage his thinking skills is not fair. He has many legitimate concerns about bible versions, as well as about Calvinism, and while you or I may not agree with all his conclusions, he has come to his conclusions honestly and should be respected for that.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

So, if all are condemned to hell (and we are, for sin), but some are elected not to go to hell for absolutely no reason (?), then it seems like the elect have actually in effect won the "Christian lottery."

Kind of like the Royal Family in England "won the lottery" so to speak, by being born royal, having had nothing to do with their circumstances of birth.

The thought that God would create some people for the explicit purpose of sending them to hell and they have nothing to say about it -- that truly is revolting, I can't help it. It sounds like something the Devil would do.

The way our church organist handled it (from the mainline reformed church) was like this: "Well, hell is just separation from God, not burning fire forever and ever, and it will be heaven for the people who go there because they didn't love God anyway."

Hell will be heaven for the people who go there, because they didn't love God anyway?

She was my sons' young-adult Sunday School teacher and my sons said to my husband, "Dad, you wouldn't believe what she is teaching us!" My husband had to take over the class on the subject of hell.

I'm not saying that all mainline reformed people think like this, but this was HER way of coping with a God who would create people to go to hell and give them no choice in the matter.

Most of the people in that congregation were basically universalists, in the end figuring that everybody would end up going to heaven. It was their way of coping. I always say that the 6th brick in the wall of Calvinism is universalism, eventually.

When we would talk about being born again, the responses we got were: "That was for Nicodemus," or "That's for the drug addicts and the prostitutes. WE are the elect and don't need that because we are already living the life." (Born saved?) I'm NOT saying that they were bad people.

I don't doubt their salvation, because they truly believed in Christ the way the Bible says, but the Calvinism led to funny beliefs, complacency, and a lack of evangelism. Just saying what I saw.

These were mainline reformed people who had been raised reformed, along with their ancestors before them. They were not neo-reformed people with "new convert zeal" and a "holdover of born-again thinking and evangelistic outreach" as a result of having come out of evangelical churches.

I'm not saying I approve of the shoddy evangelism of the evangelicals -- "once payed always saved," by saying a prayer they don't mean because somebody twisted their arm. KWIM?

I believe that God gave us a free will and the ability to use it rightly, and that we have to be born again.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Sorry for the typo. I meant "once PRAYED, always saved" -- that is, using some "sinner's prayer" like a magic formula for fire insurance whether you mean it or not or whether you truly believe or not. Such a person was never saved, in my book, and their life usually shows it, because there is no change in the person.

The Squirrel said...

"but some are elected not to go to hell for absolutely no reason"

Mary,

I do not believe that there is no reason for an individual's election, God chooses who He chooses for His purposes, according to the counsel of His will. It is just that His choice is not based on any merit possessed by the one chosen.

"I'm not saying that all mainline reformed people think like this"

I would say not! I sounds like you were dealing with some very theologically mixed up folks, as none of the staunch Calvinist that I know are anywhere close to becoming universalist, nor annihilationists. (And while many are Reformed Baptist, others are from Presbyterian and other Reformed traditions, so we're not talking about "vestigial evangelicalism" here.)

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

"While I don't agree with Reverend Cloud on his KJV only stance, I don't think it is fair to say that a reasonable man would not hold such a view."

I'm sorry, Jennie, but KJVO is a false belief system based on easily disprovable assumptions and really bad scripture-twisting. At it's extreme end, it is cultic and rife with weird conspiracy theories and such. I question the reasoning ability of anyone who holds to a King James Only position, just as I do anyone who says that George Bush masterminded the September 11 attacks or denies that we landed on the moon 40 years ago.

~Squirrel

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Well, I don't believe that "believing" is a "merit" at all. We can't merit our salvation. That much we agree on.

The Squirrel said...

"Well, I don't believe that "believing" is a "merit" at all. We can't merit our salvation. That much we agree on."

And that brings us to the question that is at the heart of this whole discussion, "Why do some believe the Gospel while others reject it."

~Squirrel

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Because they love the darkness rather than the light. They love their sin.

brigand said...

The church Mary speaks of is in no way Reformed. The keyword she dropped, "mainline" is a good indication. There are no Reformed churches that are "mainline."

Being generous and assuming that this church is actually a member of a Reformed denomination, they'd be sneaking under the radar.

You cannot be Reformed and Universalist. You cannot be Reformed and deny that you must be born again. You cannot be Reformed and say that election is due to your ancestry, or that you were born saved. You cannot be Reformed and deny the reality of Hell. The list of non-Reformed things coming from that "Reformed" church goes on.

The usual summaries of what Reformed people believe the Bible to say, what they confess, is plain for all to see: Westminster Confession, London Baptist Confession, Belgic Confession, etc. What Mary's described is many *clear violations* of common standards of Reformed churches.

You cannot *confess* X and practice exactly the opposite. "I always say that the 6th brick in the wall of Calvinism is universalism, eventually." That's like saying that black always becomes white, eventually. Or that all the women who visit the salons once a month are all going to one day just up and shave their heads.

It makes no sense. I bet if you asked them for the first question of the Children's catechism, not one would have a clue what you were talking about, which means that most were never, ever, in their dear lives taught an ounce of theology coming close to being called "Reformed".

And her experience of non-Reformed people calling themselves Reformed has colored her perception of everyone else claiming the same.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Brigand: These people were in The Reformed Church of America (RCA -- formerly known as Dutch Reformed) -- the oldest denomination in America, (which is why I refer to it as a mainline denomination) with headquarters in, I believe, Holland, Michigan.

The people all studied the Heidelberg Catechism as children and young people in Sunday School. Some of them went to Reformed colleges in Iowa.

You cannot say that they are not reformed. We are not unaware of what we pastored for 10 years.

They absolutely denied having to be born again. As far as evangelism went, it was, "If they are meant to come, they'll come." They had this idea that people who had a born-again experience "don't stick." But many of their children "didn't stick."

My husband is an Assemblies of God minister, and this was the state we found the people to be in when we took the church, and we pastored it for 10 years.

In order for my husband to pastor the church, the local denominational officials made him read Calvin's Institutes of Religion, the Belgique Confession, the Cannons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism, so that he would know all about reformed theology, and he read all of that.

But, the people were basically universalists, or didn't really believe in a Biblical hell, and we figured that it was their way of coping with the idea of a God who created people to send them to hell and they had nothing to say about it.

Now, these particular people whom we pastored...

(most of them would have a FIT if you said they weren't really reformed -- they were mostly Dutch and Northern German by descent)

...had not had an official reformed minister in 20 years, because they couldn't meet the salary guidelines mandated by the RCA.

My husband was the 4th out of 5 Assemblies of God ministers this church had had, with a "Christian and Missionary Alliance" pastor sandwiched in between.

Really, I'm not making this up. They were fine, upstanding people -- the salt of the earth. But, yes, confused in their theology, I believe, because they had reduced their reformed theology down to a theology they could live with, which was universalist in outlook. They never "bought" our Assemblies of God theology, but considered themselves staunchly reformed.

Many had backslidden children who stopped going to church as soon as they were grown, although many of them denied that you COULD be backslidden. My husband used to go visit these wayward ones a lot, to try to bring them back into the fold.

I'm just amazed at the resurgance of Calvinism in our country. After pastoring that church for 10 years, all I could think is, "Who would want that?"

It certainly does not seem scriptural, and does not seem superior to other theologies.

Pragmatically, I did not see that the doctrines or theology produced superior or more steadfast Christians than any other theology, but it is presented like the cure

(and I think that is what really sticks in my craw)

for the ills of many churches like "people who are not really saved thinking they are Christians" or backsliding.

I see it all over the internet presented by NEO-reformed people as the cure for the ills of Christianity (worldly living, people who have an emotional experience or say a sinner's prayer but don't really believe), and a lot of them are snide and mean about it, but I personally did not see it as a cure for anything. After many generations, these people had the same problems as any other Christians.

The NEO-reformed people I know personally all come out of evangelicalism. They have new-convert zeal and are very fervent. I'm not saying they are unholy or bad people or anything.

I'm alarmed at the resurgance of the theology, because I fear it will lead to a lot of Christians not preaching the Gospel...not reaching out to the lost. That's why I bother to get into these discussions.

brigand said...

Mary,

I actually was thinking it might be the RCA or the PCUSA. Thanks for clarifying!

"You cannot say that they are not reformed."

I did, and I will again. They're not Reformed. They haven't been for ages.

"most of them would have a FIT if you said they weren't really reformed -- they were mostly Dutch and Northern German by descent"

It's true, they'd have a fit. But being Dutch doesn't make you Reformed. The only reason they think so is because 1) They're Dutch, and 2) It says so on the building.

"...had not had an official reformed minister in 20 years"

The fact that they haven't had a RCA minister in that church for 20 years can only be an improvement.

"After pastoring that church for 10 years, all I could think is, "Who would want that?""

Not me. I'd rather poke my right eye out with a rusty knife than endure a church who taught such things. But alas, I am Reformed. The RCA is not. It's just a name. The sign hasn't changed, and there might be a deluded Reformed individual or two left in their pews trying to Reform them with consistent Biblical teaching, but the rest have vacated the premises.

The RCA is a *liberal* denomination.

If you seriously think they're Reformed, then take any of those statements I've repudiated earlier, and show how they're consistent, with, say, the Belgic Confession.

I think you'll find the theological trends and practices within the RCA *at war* with Scripture and their own Confession.

Jennie said...

brigand,
I think Mary is saying that this RCA church is the end result after many years when the zeal of newness has worn off and all that is left is a subconscious reaction to a fearful and revolting doctrine that they can't accept as their ancestors did, but have developed ways of explaining it away.
Certainly they are reformed in name only now.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Yes, the RCA definitely has problems. This congregation that we pastored was conservative in comparison with most of the rest of them, probably because it is in a rural area, and because it has not had an official RCA minister for a while.

All I'm saying is that I don't think reformed theology is the cure-all for the ills of Christianity, because it eventually goes downhill, too, as these peoples' ideas and the eventual liberality of the old denomination shows.

Everybody has to have their own faith and their own relationship with Jesus. You can't do it for your children, which I think covenant theology teaches.

Yes, the officially ordained ministers in this denomination were very liberal.

We never tried to talk this congregation into converting to Assemblies of God.

I think these people were confused. My husband used to ask some of them individually if they believed certain points of classic Calvinism, and they'd say, "Nah, I don't believe that!" He would say, "Yes you do...if you are reformed." They'd repeat, "Nah, I don't believe that." Like I said, many of them were really universalists.

They didn't seem to like a lot of classic reformed beliefs such as God sending people to hell without them having anything to say about it.

At least I understand that that is a classic reformed belief.

This congregation used to call the A/G Bible college in our area for students to come out and preach. My husband got sent out when he was a student and was interim pastor for a year. After he graduated, they asked him to stay; we liked the people and couldn't bring ourselves to leave.

They were happy with my husband's exegetical preaching, which was great, but we WERE troubled at the thought that they didn't have to be born again.

I always understood that all reformed people believed in covenant theology where you are brought into the covenant as a baby because your parents were in the covenant, so you don't have to be born again.

It just seemed to me like the odd ideas that these people had, which bordered on universalism, and the liberal ideas that the denomination had adopted, were their way of coping with a God who created people to go to hell and they had nothing to say about it. Shoot, I'd have to figure out something to be able to cope with it...sorry.

And don't get me going about the outright weirdness that is going around in the pentecostal/charismatic denominations and fellowships, and has been for a long time, due to the health/wealth "gospels." I'm not going to defend them or say that they are better. That is the reason we do not pastor one of their churches and ended up in the RCA church for 10 years. We now pastor a Baptist church.

The Christian churches in our country are definitely in need of sound Biblical teaching and a general overhaul. I think we are all on the same page with that. I just don't see reformed theology as the answer, based on what I saw as, in my opinion, the "end result".

Yes, I see what you mean about the liberal denomination's ideas being at war with the reformed confessions.

My husband dug around in the church's library and found some old ministerial manuals and liked them very much and used them instead of the newer ones that the RCA ministers used. They were very strict in tone and serious and he liked that.

When we left that church, he had to leave those old manuals behind because they weren't his, but he went online and found some for himself.

He also used to read from the Heidelberg Catechism when our congregation had communion, because there is some great stuff in there. I think he was the only pastor who had done that in many years.

We never did convert to reformed theology, though, because we still believe in free will.

You say true reformed people believe in being born again??? Surely this idea must be a hybrid. I didn't think reformed theology taught this.

I'm enjoying the conversation, Brigand. I'm not a theologian, obviously, but just giving my observations and conclusions based on what I saw.

The Squirrel said...

Mary,

Having just read your exchange with Brigand, it would seem to me that what you witnesses with the RCA (a denomination that I am unfamiliar with, but that Brigand seems quite aware of) is the end result of liberalism and a rejection of all sound doctrine, and not the end result of Calvinism at all.

Officially, I am not Reformed, but rather Calvinist, because I do not hold to Covenant Theology, but to Dispensationalism, but, yes, of course Calvinists believe that one must be born again in order to be saved. After all, it’s in the Bible, and Calvinists believe the Bible. Just listen to John MacArthur’s sermons on the third chapter of John! (part 1 - http://webmedia.gty.org/sermons/High/1505B.mp3 | part 2 - http://webmedia.gty.org/sermons/High/1506A.mp3 | part 3 - http://webmedia.gty.org/sermons/High/1506B.mp3)

As to evangelism, Calvinists are strongly committed to evangelism. William Carey was a Calvinist, as was Jonathon Edwards, as was George Whitfield, as was Charles Spurgeon; strong evangelists all. Indeed, what I consider to be one of the finest, if not the finest, handbook on evangelism every penned, Evangelism Explosion, was written by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, a Presbyterian minister & unquestionable reformed in his theology.

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

a fearful and revolting doctrine

Jennie, I can only assume that you are referring to the same doctrine that Mary refers to when she says, “The thought that God would create some people for the explicit purpose of sending them to hell and they have nothing to say about it -- that truly is revolting, I can't help it. It sounds like something the Devil would do.” Am I right?

Let me ask you this: Do you believe that God has perfect and complete knowledge of all future events, including who will be and who will not be saved?

If God already knows just exactly what I am going to eat for breakfast in the morning, then am I free to eat something else?

So, If God allows “Bob,” to come into existence, knowing all the while that “Bob” will reject Christ and enter eternity unregenerate and will be damned for his sin, how is that really any different from what the Calvinist says? The only question becomes, “How does God know?” The Calvinist says that God knows because that is the way that He decreed that it would be. The non-Calvinist says that God knows because he “looked down the corridors of time” and saw that “Bob” would not believe. Now, the question is, “Which viewpoint is supported by the Scriptures?”

~Squirrel

brigand said...

"because it eventually goes downhill, too, as these peoples' ideas and the eventual liberality of the old denomination shows."

You have to apply the "if it goes downhill" idea everywhere, unfortunately. Welcome to Church history (or even history in general) -- where if you do apply that, you'll end up rejecting every idea eventually. You can't attribute the *exact same liberalism taught* in Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic churches today to Reformed theology. And that was my beef with your original stance -- you were in a liberal church that believed liberal theology of liberal Christianity and because of that, you now stand against Reformed theology. Which doesn't follow.

"God sending people to hell without them having anything to say about it."

God doesn't send anyone to Hell who repents of their sins and puts their faith in His son, and we are told to command all men everywhere to repent and believe.

"Everybody has to have their own faith and their own relationship with Jesus. You can't do it for your children, which I think covenant theology teaches."
and
"you don't have to be born again."

On the contrary, Covenant Theology teaches exactly the opposite: that you are born *in Adam* and that you need to be *born again* in Christ. Two covenants ... two federal heads ... So being born again simply because of your parents is impossible.

"Surely this idea must be a hybrid."

Nope. Perfectly congruent. In fact, if you got caught teaching what you say we teach, you'd be brought under church discipline.

Well, Mary, I appreciate your candor, and I hope that this discussion has been helpful in contextualizing your own prior experience.

Craig and Heather said...

This may be totally irrelevant but last night I went to bed feeling a little unsettled about some things I read here.

I was thinking about:

“The thought that God would create some people for the explicit purpose of sending them to hell and they have nothing to say about it -- that truly is revolting, I can't help it. It sounds like something the Devil would do.”

And Paul's words in Romans 9:16-24 came to mind:
So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?"

Paul's answer to this protest is interesting:
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
(NASB)

Now,
I realize that Paul says "what if" God's plan looks like this? so it possibly could be argued that this is not a definitive answer to why God saves people and not others (although I think the reason is strongly suggested in the section which I marked in bold letters). However, I don't think it was Paul's intention to fully explain.

I think he was making a point of saying that it isn't our business to try to completely diagram and measure God's ways. We certainly have no right to decide whether or not He is being "fair" or just in His dealings with humanity. The book of Job supports this concept as well.

Whether or not John Calvin taught that "God would create some people for the explicit purpose of sending them to hell and they have nothing to say about it -", it appears that Paul did.

At the very least, Paul said that it is not for us to determine whether it is wrong of God to be doing so IF that is in fact what He is doing.

And the contrast between God's righteous wrath and His unfathomable mercy should stand out starkly to any who's eyes have been opened. Those of us who have been plucked off of the path to destruction should display an attitude of thankfulness and humility, even if we don't "get" why He's doing what He's doing.

Heather

Craig and Heather said...

I meant "saves some people and not others".


Speaking of Job, I noticed in Chapter 32, Elihu joins the discussion. Verses1-3 say:

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But the anger of Elihu the son of Barchel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned; against Job his anger burned, because he justified himself before God. And his anger burned against his three friends because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.

Job apparently suffered from the sin of self-righteous pride. He felt he was a "good guy" and didn't deserve the rough times he was having.

But Elihu says: Why do you complain against Him, that He does not give an account of all His doings? Indeed, God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it.Job 33:13-14

The speeches of Elihu and God are very interesting to me in light of the expressed concerns about whether it is right for God to do things which the Bible appears to support but to us may seem harsh or "unfair".

I am wondering...Perhaps those who struggle with certain aspects of John Calvin's teachings are actually having a hard time accepting some difficult teachings about God's nature--things which Calvin just happened to note in his own writings?

And perhaps the real problem is that we often try to wrap our minds around certain details which we are incapable of fully comprehending? Often, I want answers and try to make sense of things which are well beyond my scope of experience, and it can be frustrating as long as I insist on being able to have a satisfactory answer.

As I said, my input here may be totally off subject, but it's what this discussion brought to mind.

Heather

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

I'm enjoying the discussion, too, you guys. Squirren, hope we haven't taken over your blog. Fascinating subject.

Yes, Brigand, I think that is what you have done: helped me to "contextualize" my experience.

And, you are right: all through church history, ALL denominations eventually decline. My husband and I have personally watched the Assemblies of God go into liberalism and downhill. My husband is now ordained with an independent A/G fellowship, which is good, since we minister independently anyway.

No, what I'm saying is that the reformed theology is not an antidote for a denomination going liberal and downhill and the children not following God. Reformed theology is presented on the internet as the antidote for everything that is wrong in the church, and after seeing what I have seen in the RCA, it is not.

Heather, Squirrel, sometimes I wonder if us Armenians (I wear the label) and Calvinists aren't actually believing the same thing, we just have different ways of explaining the unexplainable.

I always saw that passage by Paul about God putting up with vessels prepared for destruction as being like this: they had a free will but wouldn't repent, and God patiently put up with them, but finally, when he gave them over to their sin to be completely reprobate, THAT's when He made them into vessels of destruction.

Kind of like Pharaoh -- after he hardened his own heart so many times, God finally hardened his heart (turned him into a vessel of destruction).

Yes, the idea of "does God's foreknowledge mean he forces them to do things?" is probably one of those "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" questions.

The passage about "those whom He foreknew He did predestine" to me in no way says at all that God predestined some to go to heaven and some to go to hell.

All it says is that those whom He "foreknew" He predestined "to be conformed into the image of His Son" not predestined to go to heaven or hell.

But, yes, I understand you, Squirrel. He knows those who will reject him and allows them to be born anyway. Kind of the same thing, isn't it? I get your drift. I have thought of that myself.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Anyway, Brigand, so good to find somebody who knows about the RCA. Like I said, the poor people were in a deplorable state when we found them. The other A/G and CMA ministers apparently didn't teach them much, either.

Most of the people were elderly, like in their 80's and 90's. They remember when the Dutch Reformed church was VERY strict. They were all raised on the Heidelberg Catechism, but said it was just rote memory stuff and they didn't remember any of it (kind of like me going to Catholic school with the nuns and studying the Balitmore Catechism for 7 years -- I don't remember anything, except maybe 3 questions and answers).

Their children, in their 50's and 60's, were taught it too (they went to that church also), but I guess during the 60's, when everybody in our country went liberal, they quit teaching it to THEIR children. Sad.

My husband could see right off the bat that nobody went by the Belgique Confession, that's why when he went around to visit the elderly people, he would ask them if they believed the stuff that was in it, and they said, "Nah." He couldn't believe it.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig and Heather said...

Brigand said:
"This is a strange thread indeed.

Calvinism is confusing and revolting.

It's revolting because it points out the exceeding sinfulness of sin."

I agree. We tend to think of sinfulness in the terms Squirrel used in his previous post, (Stalin, Hitler, concentration camp guards, telemarketers)

However, the true nature of depravity is that we are God haters. That means that when we come face to face with the true nature of God, guess what, we find Him revolting!

The thought of the creation being revolted by the Creator is the essence of rebellion. That is the true nature of our depravity. The sinful things we do stem from this depravity, but the essence of the depravity is that We become the judge of good and evil, rather than God. (God said, don't eat that, it is nto good for you, Eve said, that looks good, and ate it - God said not good, we said good - This is the essence of our sin)

Part of my brokenness before God is that I keep finding myself in Romans 7, redeemed but still struggling with my own depravity. Rather than concluding that God is revolting, I recognize that my ability to see is warped and cry "Oh wretched man that I am, Who will deliver me?" Thanks be to God through Jesus who has delivered me!

We must look seriously at ourselves when we find God revolting (as we tend to do in Romans 9) The problem is not Him, it is us.

So, we must go to Romans 12, and rather than being pressed into this world's mold, we need God to transform us from the inside so that we can prove God's will is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Just my thoughts. Not intended to offend, just pointing out an area in my life I have had to deal with as I have recognized my own tendancy to be revolted by the truth.

Craig

Jennie said...

There is a difference between being revolted by God's word and being revolted by men's doctrines that are attempting to explain God's word.
As Mary said, we may be looking at the same thing from different perspectives; and there are different perspectives in scripture that seem to support both sides. We aren't going to be able to explain how God can allow people free will and also elect some. I believe, as Mary said in different words, that man either submits by faith, or hardens his heart in rebellion, and from man's perspective (which is shown in the Bible) he is hardening his own heart, or else submitting to God. Both perspectives are shown, and both are valid. We can't understand how free will and election can both be true, but they are both seen in scripture.
I think men first harden their hearts, and then God turns them over to their own devices.

Craig and Heather said...

I think men first harden their hearts, and then God turns them over to their own devices
Some semi-random thoughts:

I think there is evidence for this order of progression.

Romans 1 also indicates that man is fully responsible for rejecting that which God has made clear about Himself through Creation.


Have you considered that perhaps we are born with hard hearts?

Because of the effects of sin, people are born all the time with genetically inherited defects. Even "normal" people have one or another imperfection, which, when compared to one another, may not seem too bad but still falls way short of ideal.

Anyway, the first man rebelled and so all his descendants have been subjected to the consequences, which include:

~Physical hardship, disease and death

~Broken fellowship with God/hardened heart (spiritual death)

~An inherited rebellious nature (from deadness of spirit) that desires to throw off God's authority so we can make our own standards of right and wrong.


I'm thinking that the conscious choice to "harden" was made in the garden--by Adam. And, I suspect that the ability to have a truly *free* will ended when Adam decided to disobey God.

The rest of us have been subjected to the consequences of that decision.
Redeemed or not, we are not simply puppets and are still allowed to make choices (red or blue/new or used/chicken or beef/cotton or leather/left or right/steal or pay etc).

But, if the choices we make are directed by an existing rebellious heart, the "will" is not truly "free" but is subject to the "deadness" of our spirit.

Our inherited sinful nature taints even the best of human intentions.And our only for reconciliation is Christ's perfect obedience and covering blood.

Until God gives us "heart transplants", our will (values, preferences, desires etc) is driven by our hardened, self-centered, rebellious nature.

Heather

The Squirrel said...

"Have you considered that perhaps we are born with hard hearts?"

Craig, you put that one right in the 10-ring! That's exactly it, we are born full of corruption, or "Totally Depraved" as it where.

~Squirrel

The Squirrel said...

Ah, I meant "Heather"

:o)

~Squirrel

Paul said...

Here are a couple of very good resources on :

The Hardening of Pharaoh and the Hope of the World

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2003/124_The_Hardening_of_Pharaoh_and_the_Hope_of_the_World/

AN EXEGETICAL AND THEOLOGICAL CONSIDERATION
OF THE HARDENING OF PHARAOH'S HEART IN
EXODUS 4-14 AND ROMANS 9


http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/02-Exodus/Text/Articles/Beale-Hardening-TJ.pdf

Jennie said...

Hi Heather,
about whether we are born with hard hearts; I think that is one of the things that shows that the Calvinist understanding of total depravity is not the biblical understanding of mans' sinfulness. I mean that the Bible in Romans 1 teaches that man hardens his heart and sears his conscience by the practice of sin, which makes him want to forget God because of guilt and the desire for sin.

See Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Notice it says 'they suppress the truth in unrighteousness' and 'they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful...and their foolish hearts were darkened.'

This sounds very similar to total depravity, but these men were not born in it, but hardened themselves and God gave them over to it. Now I see that it does not take long in life for people to be hardened by sin and bitterness, so man definitely is easily prone to this depravity. Humans are born in sin, tend towards sin, and all fall into sin, as the Bible says. We all go astray and need a savior. But we are not born depraved.

Craig and Heather said...

Squirrel, No problem. We have that "one flesh" thing going ;o)

Jennie,

I've spent a lot of time in Romans 1 lately...and I do see your point.

Fortunately, I am not officially a Calvinist so I don't feel a driving need to argue about whether that particular text offers satisfactory refutation of the concept of total depravity. God counts man as fully responsible for his choices. No question.

I will have to look more fully into the overall context before directly approaching your perspective on that...Hope that's okay.

Something I've been considering:

It's the same text that you copied, plus verse 25--
Rom 1:25 For they changed the truth of God into a lie, and they worshiped and served the created thing more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Backing up:

who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,

"From the creation of the world" includes Adam and his fall in the Garden. He and Eve "knew God" yet "did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful (for what God had given to them and shown them of Himself) but became futile in their thoughts and had their foolish hearts darkened when they decided to ignore God's instruction and determine for themselves a new standard of right and wrong. Adam could be said to have "free will". The rest of us inherited his fallen nature. To this day, humanity retains this bent toward rebellion, thus we are all considered guilty.



h

Craig and Heather said...

(cont) I'm not arguing, just tossing out thoughts, hoping someone can help me better understand.

Adam was told by God that " you shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" Gen 2:17

While he didn't physically die immediately, it does appear he experienced a spiritual death when his fellowship with God was broken. He apparently couldn't stand to be uncovered in God's presence because he tried to make clothes and then hid. Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 both appear to indicate that all of humanity inherits this spiritual "deadness" and inability to withstand God's glory while "uncovered".

I've not yet found a passage that explains that the inherent spiritual deadness was reversed at some point (thus restoring the ability to freely choose to respond to God apart from His first resuscitating us).

To me, this indicates that we are born with hard (dead) hearts. Could you help me out on that?



I believe Squirrel mentioned in a previous post that he believes the term "depravity" may not accurately convey what Calvinists mean and that "inability" may be more appropriate. I'm thinking "deadness" also could be an appropriate term. A dictionary definition of "depraved" does includes the concept of being "tainted", "corrupted" or "being destitute of holiness or good principles". And, while it is true that not all of us end up as Hitler, we all have a corrupted nature that desires to be the boss rather than bow in obedience to God.

James wrote that breaking one part of God's law is equivalent to breaking the whole Law.
The Law stands as a single unit. Could we not use that same line of logic and say that even if fallen human nature displays corruption in only one area, we are still counted as being completely corrupted as far as God is concerned? Is that not a Biblical understanding of the way God views us?

No amount of unrighteousness can withstand God's holy presence, and being even a "little" bad means we deserve God's judgment. So I'm not understanding what the point is for arguing against "total depravity"?

Heather

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

I don't agree with the idea of total depravity, but agree with the idea of a sinful nature that we inherit from Adam, and an inability to redeem ourselves.

I am not totally depraved, because I am created in the image of God, and also, like the verses mentioned in Romans 1, I have God's laws written on my conscience. A person created in the image of God with God's laws written on his/her conscience is not a totally depraved creature.

I know right from wrong, from the time I am a child. I can choose right from wrong. People do it all the time. Even unbelievers choose not to, say, murder or rape.

But, I am unable to redeem myself, because even if I choose to do right all the time (which I don't, because I'm sinful), I am still sinful in mind and heart, etc.

Even after my conversion, I still have my sinful nature, and though I now have the Holy Spirit living inside of me to help me to always choose right, I still use my wilfullness to choose wrong sometimes.

Just my way of figuring. I'm unable to save myself; I am able to choose right from wrong. We pass laws and expect everybody to choose to obey them, even unbelievers, or else there will be consequences.

Craig and Heather said...

I am not totally depraved, because I am created in the image of God, and also, like the verses mentioned in Romans 1, I have God's laws written on my conscience. A person created in the image of God with God's laws written on his/her conscience is not a totally depraved creature.

By setting forth the concept of "total depravity", I think the point is not that we all WILL behave in the most despicable manner possible, but that (apart from God' constraining hand) we are all capable of it. According to Jesus, hating someone is no different from stabbing him in the heart with a knife. Drooling over a woman is no different from physically committing adultery.

And what makes our crime even more heinous is exactly what you just said : We are made in God's image, have been given a sense of God's standards and yet the natural man ignores this in favor of creature-worship and adoption of a man-cantered definition of right and wrong. To have any sort of inborn "knowledge" of Almighty God, yet continue on in rebellion speaks to me of pre-existing hardness/deadness that prevents us from properly responding....

Still processing the concept

Heather

Lockheed said...

I don't agree with the idea of total depravity, but agree with the idea of a sinful nature that we inherit from Adam, and an inability to redeem ourselves.

To paraphrase John Piper, we're not sinners because we sin, we sin because we're sinners.

Total depravity has always meant that man is effected by sin in all of his being. Not that man is as sinful as he can be all the time.

That sinful nature inherited from Adam means that we choose sin every time... we may not choose the "most sinful" action but no matter what we do it is sin because it is done in rebellion to God.

Since that is the case, and since God willingly allows procreation of those born in Adam's nature... you must admit that God allows the birth (and thus CREATES) those whom He knows are destined for hell.

Micah

Craig and Heather said...

I meant "man-centered"

I don't at all deny that we have the ability to make choices. And the Bible repeatedly indicates we are responsible for those choices.

There are far too many passages where the writer urges readers to press on in the faith for me to just swallow the Calvinist perspective without chewing for a while. Yet, what I understand of the Arminian view seems to "softpedal" the extent of my offense and need for God to save me.

Thank you, Lockheed Your comment articulated some of what I've been thinking

Heather

Craig and Heather said...

That sinful nature inherited from Adam means that we choose sin every time... we may not choose the "most sinful" action but no matter what we do it is sin because it is done in rebellion to God. Yes, this is part of what I've been mulling over.

The inherited rebellious nature affects (stains, taints, corrupts)everything we do, think or say. Regardless of how "good" the unsaved person's choice seems from a human vantage point, God still sees it as infested with the rot of a heart which refuses to worship Him.

H

Craig and Heather said...

Mary,
If all of my righteousness is as filthy rags, (I am sure you know exactly what the literal picture of that phrase is in the original language); how can I be anything BUT totally depraved? If that describes my "good" what about the bad stuff I did? (and do)

You see, I think the height of evil is to try to be good WITHOUT GOD. He is the inventor and originator of good. Any supposed "good" without Him is the same thing Satan did when he was lifted up with pride. Satan did not decide to rape or murder. He wanted to be like God WITHOUT GOD. (in essence, "God aint so special, I can do that as good as he does.")

That (in my opinion) is the essence of our sinfulness. We as a race decided to determine good from evil independent of God. We became the measure of right and wrong. But there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, and it aint me!

Craig

Paul said...

Total Depravity
Man is constituted a sinner by his relationship with Adam
Psa 51:5; Psa 58:3; Rom 5:18-19 He is therefore unable

1. To do anything good
2. Gen 6:5; Job 15:14-16; Psa 130:3; Psa 143:2; Pro 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Isa 64:6; Jer 13:23; John 3:19; Rom 3:9-12; Jam 3:8; 1John 1:8 To believe in God (or come to him)
3. John 6:44; John 6:65; John 8:43-45; John 10:26; John 12:37-41 To understand the truth
4. John 14:17; 1Cor 2:14 To seek God
Rom 3:10-11

He is dead in sins Gen 2:16-17; John 3:5-7; Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13 He is blinded and corrupt in his heart Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Ecc 9:3; Jer 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19-21; Rom 8:7-8; Eph 4:17-19; Eph 5:8 He is captive to sin and Satan John 8:34; John 8:44; Rom 6:20; 2Tim 2:25-26; Tit 3:3; 1John 5:19 He performs actions freely according to his nature, but his nature is wholly evil Job 14:4; Mat 7:16-18; Mat 12:33; Mark 7:21-23; Jam 1:13-14

source:
http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/gracelist.html

Jennie said...

My husband Eddie has just completed a study on predestination and Calvinism and I have a blog post up about it. I think he has alot of insight on how this conflict between free will and election can be resolved. Here is the link to the message: http://www.exchangedlife.com/Sermons/topical/predestination/calvinism1.html
It is in two parts, so be sure to click the link to part two at the bottom.
He also did another study on predestination, and how understanding it can help the believer, in February that is on his bible study page on his website, exchangedlife.com.

Craig and Heather said...

Just a weird thought on my part:

there are those who used to say (about the "law" vs. "grace" argument) that Paul and James were at odds, yet a true understanding is that rather than arguing face to face, they were arguing back to back. They agreed, but were dealing with opposite errors.

Earlier I said:

"You see, I think the height of evil is to try to be good WITHOUT GOD. He is the inventor and originator of good. Any supposed "good" without Him is the same thing Satan did when he was lifted up with pride. Satan did not decide to rape or murder. He wanted to be like God WITHOUT GOD. (in essence, "God ain't so special, I can do that as good as he does.")

That (in my opinion) is the essence of our sinfulness. We as a race decided to determine good from evil independent of God."

Could it be that this willfulness (that maybe some would call "free will") is actually an aspect of our depravity?

God created us to have the ability to make choices, but for our will to be subjected to His. This is what fellowship with God is. But when Adam and Eve decided to be their own determiners of good and evil, maybe God gave them what they decided as part of their judgment. Often times judgment is that we simply get the natural consequences of our actions.

Just my off the wall thought.

Craig

Jennie said...

Craig,
Could it be that this willfulness (that maybe some would call "free will") is actually an aspect of our depravity?

Yes, and my husband brings this out in his study. Our will only comes into play when we are resisting God and choosing sin, or choosing to try to be good enough on our own. Submission, on the other hand, is what Christ taught us in the Garden of Gethsemane. When we submit to God, by grace, we let go of our will. I guess it's the Garden of Eden vs. the Garden of Gethsemane; our will vs. God's will.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

But, didn't God give us a free will, the ability to choose between good and evil? Where did it come from? We didn't "jin it up" ourselves. We didn't create ourselves, or give ourselves a free will.

And, I'm totally capable of gross evil even after salvation, not just before.

Something sounds funny here. I can't help it...the predestination makes me think of robots, or animals or something.

Why would God, throughout the Bible, keep telling people to choose rightly, if He didn't give them the ability to do it??? Just to hear Himself talk?

What's the difference between a sinful nature and totally depraved. Are we saying the same thing in a different way?

Craig and Heather said...

What's the difference between a sinful nature and totally depraved. Are we saying the same thing in a different way?


Mary,

Sometimes, it seems we can get caught up in debating semantics and methodology and get lost in a "forest" of proof texts and partially satisfying explanations.

I think there are true aspects to both Calvinism and Arminianism. And I don't believe it is wrong to say "My understanding most closely matches that of *******"

There is probably error on both sides as well, so it may be a mistake to cling exclusively to a single perspective without giving serious consideration to the possibility that the "other side" may have a point, even if it seems like a paradox.

Something sounds funny here. I can't help it...the predestination makes me think of robots, or animals or something.

God allows us to make choices. He holds us responsible for the consequences of those choices. Yet there are also verses like:

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes-Prov 21:1

While I would not say that we are merely puppets, I have to conclude that God does indeed step in and exercise His will in human hearts at least sometimes. And, He has an overarching plan which will be accomplished regardless of whether we can figure out "how" He will work everything out to be the way He wants it.

Why would God, throughout the Bible, keep telling people to choose rightly, if He didn't give them the ability to do it??? Just to hear Himself talk?

This is a concept I have struggled with, too. To be held responsible for my sin, yet not be able to do anything myself to relieve that pressure seems harsh. I want desperately to be chosen and I want to do what is right and be able to stand on the day of Judgment. But the way "predestination" and "election" are often presented leaves me nervously wondering whether I'm going to be passed over in spite of my interest.
It makes me feel like the gawky, not-too-bright, overlooked kid in the back of the classroom, desperately waving her arm and bouncing around, hoping against hope that the teacher will choose to let her help pass out papers.

I'm totally capable of gross evil even after salvation, not just before. Well, we probably all could say this...but don't you find that (generally speaking) you have less and less of a desire to indulge in sin as you get to know God better? Don't you find that things you used to overlook as "normal" now make you uncomfortable? It seems that way for me...but I also have become more aware of how yucky I really am. On the one hand, I want more than ever to do what is right, yet it seems that I find myself failing to meet the mark more frequently, too.

Hm. Studying Scripture seems to uncover more questions than it does answers. I wonder if eternity will be like that? Always learning something new about God that leads to more wonderment and an unquenchable desire to dig even deeper.

Heather

The Squirrel said...

Mary,

Please indulge me and allow me to quote from, first Turretinfan, and then myself:

"Totally Depraved | humans are corrupt throughout | not 'bad as can be'" – TurretinFan

"Most people misunderstand what is meant by that term “total depravity.” And, truthfully, depravity is not the clearest word that could be used. John Macarthur refers instead to man’s total inability; because the Bible tells us that man, in his natural state, is unable to seek God, obey God, or to please God in any way. “Depravity” is not the best choice of words, because when we hear the word “depraved” we think of the worst of offenders; mass murderers, child molesters, concentration camp guards, telemarketers, and the like. We don’t think of ourselves as “depraved.” And, in a sense we are correct (I hope neither I, nor any of my readers, are a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Pol Pot.) But, in the theological sense, we are all depraved. Total Depravity does not say that men are as bad as they could be. What it does say is that every part of man is tainted and corrupted by sin."

Please check back in the morning, as I'll be taking a closer look at the concept of "Free Will."

~Squirrel

Jennie said...

Just a note; it looks like my husband has condensed his message into one part. If anyone wants to read it and discuss it, you are welcome to come over to my blog, and maybe Eddie will join in if anyone has any 'comments, questions, or wise cracks', as he likes to say.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Yeah, Squirrel, I know what you mean. I used to be a telemarketer...well, actually, a collection agent for the telephone company when I worked for a lawyer years ago. That's worse, really. I was good at it, too...of course, that was before the privacy laws! I made that lawyer a lot of money. I'm a natural pest. (Can one be a true Christian and a telemarketer?)

Yes, Heather, I do find I hate sin and my sinfulness more and more as I get to know God more and more. I'm much different now than when I first got saved.

Sometimes I get confused about this: God says that there is nobody who even seeks Him; but then in Acts 17, it says that he puts people in just the right places so that they may perhaps grope for Him. I guess we have the ability to grope for Him, but we don't. I know we'll be without excuse, because He gave us the ability to do all these things.

And I still think that some of today's neo-Reformed people are a hybrid of Calvinism and Armenianism. Also, I have noticed that most of the people on the blogs are "reformed presbyterians", who live in the South, where "Born-Again Baptist" theology (also a hybrid of sorts with their 1-point Calvinism) is part of the culture.

Our organist at the RCA church we pastored is much more of a true Calvinist, although her idea of hell was messed up, because she says, "You can't know if you are the elect." Calvin said that God's elect are known only to Himself. So, really, according to his philosophy, you really can't know. Like she always said, "You can't know...but you can hope." Or assume, if you happen to have love feelings toward God.

I used to hear D. James Kennedy on tv saying people had to be born again and my husband and I would think, "What?? -- That's not Calvinism!" It was a hybrid, in our opinion.

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

Wow, Squirrel -- you got 100 comments! Welcome to the Blogger's Century Club (I made that up).

Paul said...

Mary said:
"And I still think that some of today's neo-Reformed people are a hybrid of Calvinism and Armenianism. Also, I have noticed that most of the people on the blogs are "reformed presbyterians", who live in the South, where "Born-Again Baptist" theology (also a hybrid of sorts with their 1-point Calvinism) is part of the culture."

"I used to hear D. James Kennedy on tv saying people had to be born again and my husband and I would think, "What?? -- That's not Calvinism!" It was a hybrid, in our opinion."

WCF — Chapter X: Of Effectual Calling
1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ: enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

LBCF — Chapter X: Of Effectual Calling
1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

source:
http://www.proginosko.com/docs/wcf_lbcf.html#WCF10
A Tabular Comparison of the 1646 WCF and the 1689 LBCF
Not exactly "new".