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Sep 24, 2014

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Laodicean Report

Excellent, thank you for exposing the pervasive influence of New Calvinism in the SBC. The Calvinist influence throughout history is one of division. In a day when activist homosexual and atheist movements are attacking the church, it is interesting that the divisive spirit of Calvinism is overtaking the one last bastion of biblical truth. Not a coincidence.

Mike

Laodicean Report... please. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's mean spirited comments like these (which come from BOTH sides) that are of a divisive spirit. By the way, what is this last bastion of biblical truth that you refer to? Surely you don't mean the "traditional Southern Baptist view" is the final bulwark.

Max

"Believe it or not, the Calvinist debate in the SBC is only now trickling down into grassroots churches."

Therein, lies the "too little, too late" challenge to the New Calvinist movement within SBC ranks. While grassroot members are just now waking up, pastors at SBC's 45,000+ churches darn well knew what was headed our way and should have shook the pews years ago. Church leadership should have led "family talks" by now on this crucial development, but chose to remain silent lest they appear divisive and in opposition to the Calvinism Committee exhortation for diverse views of God's plan of salvation to coexist under one big tent. We have protected the Cooperative Program at what cost?!

The deafening silence of most State convention press and the hands-off approach by Baptist Press have benefited the Calvinism resurgence. The masses in the pew remained uniformed, misinformed, or willingly ignorant as most SBC entities came under Calvinist leadership. SBC Calvinist generals knew the multitudes would do church as usual while they positioned themselves - an excellent strategy on their part. Too little, too late on the part of the grassroots.

Thank you Peter for remaining faithful to get the word out. Excellent presentation, even though it paints a sad state-of-the-disunion. May God forgive us for dropping the torch of evangelism for ALL people as this final chapter of the SBC is written.

Ted Bigelow

Peter - who does the background music on the presentation? So nice!

Rick Patrick

Hi Peter,

Great content masterfully presented. Do we have permission to post a link at Connect 316 and/or SBC Today? Thanks again for painting the picture so clearly.

peter lumpkins

Absolutely, Rick. Be my guest...

I had hoped to get a pic of Cody but I'm stuck on that one. It seems one can find ANYTHING on the internet. But it's really ALMOST anything...

rhutchin

Most people with whom I talk seem to agree with a lot of things Calvinism has concluded. They think that people are depraved and have no desire for salvation and cannot be saved unless God saves them. They believe that God ensures the salvation of His elect and not one will be lost. They will disagree with "Limited Atonement" but still agree that all will not be saved and not care about the theological arguments involved. In the end, they believe that God saves people and people do not save themselves.

Many people have bought into the notion of "free will" but cannot explain what "free" means or how one would know if the will were free. Somewhere in time, someone said, "Let's assume that all people have free will," and everyone seemed to say, "Amen."

Now, we basically have the Calvinist resurgence because people are questioning free will and wondering if the will is really "free." It probably helps that we are living in a society that is becoming increasingly open to depravity and few in the churches are standing against it.

pam knight

I know I say this every time Peter....but....Thank You , Thank You , Thank You.....you know how important this issue is to my & Theo's heart.
In Christ
pam knight

peter lumpkins

Pam,

Thank you. You are much too kind.


rhutchin,

I'm afraid you convolute far too many ideas into the theological wrapper. One statement I made to the folk on Tuesday was, no orthodox body of Christians has ever, to our knowledge, denied the complete and utter moral ruin of sinful human beings. However, what Calvinism does with "total depravity" is to add a layer of belief which few Christians we're aware of throughout history have embraced. In short, total depravity = total inability. Such is based on a misreading--or should I say OVER reading--of Paul's imagery of "dead" in passages like Eph 2:1. Hence, to suggest as you do that "they think that people are depraved" and "lack desire" is far removed from what Calvinism suggests in total depravity.

With that, I am...
Peter

volfan007

Good, good, good stuff, Peter. As usual.

David

rhutchin

Peter writes, "In short, [Calvinism concludes(?)] total depravity = total inability...Hence, to suggest as you do that "they think that people are depraved" and "lack desire" is far removed from what Calvinism [or what few Christians we're aware of throughout history have embraced(?)] suggests in total depravity."

One aspect of Total Depravity is that people are slaves to sin and consequently, they lack "free" will - a will that can think rationally. The unsaved do not want salvation because they are sinners and depraved; they cannot choose salvation despite their depravity because they do not have "free" will. We can attribute some of this to Satan per 2 Corinth 4 who has been given rule over the unsaved.

It is only when God frees the unsaved and draws them to Christ by His word that he/she can and will embrace Christ. Absent God's work of grace in the unsaved, that person could not be saved.

James Tippins

Just like the sword of God's truth. Proving ground for all people.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)

Scott Shaver

Masterful Peter:

Best truncated sketch of where WE've been and where THEY're headed I've seen to date.

very tasteful, very accurate, very poignant.

peter lumpkins

Scott

Thanks brother. I appreciate the feedback. I like to think perhaps some pastors could use the tool to present to their church in a disciple class, etc.

Lord bless...

peter lumpkins

rhutchin

Again I’m afraid you’re dancing around the core of the issue pertaining to the way Calvinists typically define and/or describe total depravity and the way our sinful moral ruin is typically defined and/or described by non-Calvinists. For example, non-Calvinists agree that our consequent spiritual ruin universally inherited since Genesis 3 means “slavery” to sin, including a mangled motivation to the way we naturally crave to survive, survival perhaps lasting forever (i.e., in your words, “unsaved do not want salvation”). But Calvinists routinely demand more. In short, Calvinists demand a view of total depravity so radical that regeneration must precede faith. This is the crux here between Baptist Calvinists—at least the overwhelming majority of Baptist Calvinists with whom I am familiar—and their non-Calvinist brothers. They definitively embrace what R.C. Sproul repeatedly says both in his innumerable writings and his teaching seminars—“Reformed theology always and everywhere insists that regeneration precedes faith” (e.g. Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology, 195).

To be sure, there exist Baptist Calvinists who argue for some sort of simultaneous salvation “event” which takes place so that repentance, faith, and regeneration are so inextricably interwoven together that it’s improper to speak of the logical/chronological aspects of the salvific experience.

But please know there’s but a gnat’s breath’s difference between them and typical non-Calvinists. On the other hand, to insist upon a definitive regeneration precedes faith Ordo salutis as Baptist Calvinists almost universally do in Southern Baptist circles makes it fairly clear to distinguish between who are Calvinists (“Reformed”) and who are not.

In passing, you made some other questionable claims, perhaps even contradictory claims. For example, in your first comment, you seem to outright deny free will exists but in the second comment you apparently believe total depravity implies the lack of “a will that can think rationally.” Whatever do you mean? Of course depraved human beings can and do think rationally!  What do you suppose constitutes one of the non-negotiable characteristics which fundamentally establishes us Homo sapiens and therefore unique in God’s creation as made in His own image if not the ability to rationally think? While Genesis 3 dealt from the bottom of the moral deck to all humanity, the noetic effects of sin—including the noetic effects of sin in skewing our ability to think--most certainly did not totally destroy our humanness (including our ability to rationally think) but rather twisted and mangled it.

Paul

Hi Peter, this post came at a good time for me. I've been really struggling with this. My church is a really great church made up of solid people who are evangelistic but they're not aware of the problems of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist convention. One of our Sunday school teachers attended our state convention. I asked him if the subject of Calvinism came up and his response was "There aren't Calvinists in the Southern Baptist convention ?! ".
How can I make my church aware of what's going on? My pastor's aware of what's going on and in private he mentioned that at his last pastorate he was aware of a handful of churches that were split over around three your period by stealth Calvinist pastors from Southern seminary. He came to our church after we had a bad experience with the previous pastor. He's turned our church around and is been building it up but he hasn't addressed this issue. I'm wondering if things have settled enough so now's the time to do something about it.
I just don't know what to do. It be helpful if you, or someone, were to make up a presentation that could be given by any of us at our churches. And then give a video example of you giving it. And then recommendations we could give to our churches if they wanted to do something about this, whether that be changes in our behavior or giving patterns. Is this something you could do? Or one of your commenters? Right now I feel like the only thing I can do is not give money to my church or go to a non-Southern Baptist Church.
Currently I feel like any money I give to my church(my church has been featured in our state conventions newspaper for it's level of cooperative giving) is being used as a tool for the Calvinist only hiring policies(The hiring policies of Southern seminary and Russell Moore would be prime examples of this, I don't want to be merely a "hewer of wood and bearer of water")I've considered talking to my pastor to see if I could just support the missions that our church is doing rather than giving to the church in general.
Also David Platt's comments about forms of evangelism he didn't approve of were not very encouraging for me my evangelism. Evangelism is very difficult for me(I'm more comfortable with a book or ideas but I prioritize evangelism because I believe people are most important even though I'm extremely introverted and I'm not the most gifted at doing it)and to have the head of my Mission organization be so flippant about the means I and my friends use was not helpful. With Gospel for Asia, The Voice of the Martyrs or Jews for Jesus I can support mission organizations that are led by experienced missionaries who have often suffered for their work and that encourage their supporters. I want to support organizations that I feel are led by men that are at least as mature and dedicated as I am and aren't using me merely as a means to an end, but that we are cooperating towards the same goal and when we say the gospel we just mean the Gospel. What advice can you give me?

Max

"My pastor's aware of what's going on ... but he hasn't addressed this issue."

Paul, this is the exact point I made in my upstream comment. The first-line defense against Calvinization of the Southern Baptist Convention is at the local church level, but church leadership in most of SBC's 45,000+ churches won't touch this hot potato with a 10-foot pole! By not adequately challenging reformed theology when the window was open, things have now become a delicate balance of allowing Calvinism to become SBC's default belief and practice while protecting home and foreign mission efforts funded largely by non-Calvinist churches! The pew simply didn't see this train coming.

P.S. The Sunday School teacher you quote should look more closely at the LifeWay materials he uses in the days ahead.

peter

Hi Paul. My apologies. My wife has me busy today. Perhaps I can respond appropriately later...

Peter

David (NAS) Rogers

Peter,

I enjoyed the presentation and am glad that it is available. I am curious about the slide that has the logos of different Calvinist organizations. There is a picture of Austin Fischer's Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed book. It chronicles his departure from Calvinism. To me, it seemed a curious addition to the slide.

rhutchin

Peter writes, "you seem to outright deny free will exists but in the second comment you apparently believe total depravity implies the lack of “a will that can think rationally.” Whatever do you mean?"

With respect to salvation, the unsaved is not free to accept salvation. So, we can say that the unsaved has no free will in the case of choosing salvation - the will of the unsaved always rejects salvation (their consequent spiritual ruin universally inherited since Genesis 3 means “slavery” to sin, including a mangled motivation to the way we naturally crave to survive, survival perhaps lasting forever (i.e., in your words, “unsaved do not want salvation”)).

What about issues other than salvation (e.g., choosing between a soda and iced tea when thirsty). Here "freedom" can be defined as not being coerced to choose one way or the other but it would be impossible to show that a person actually is free to choose unless we define it so. What exactly does "free will" even mean? I don't think anyone has yet to explain it other than to show what it is not (e.g., not coercion).

Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Thus, freedom of the will is tied to truth. If one knows the truth, one is free and thereby able to think rationally. Rejecting salvation is an irrational decision indicating that one does not know the truth and is not free to choose salvation. Accepting salvation is a rational decision indicating that one knows the truth and is free to choose salvation.

rhutchin

Peter writes, "...Calvinists demand a view of total depravity so radical that regeneration must precede faith."

Calvinists merely conclude that the unsaved cannot accept salvation and that God must do something to enable them to do so. Even the Arminians accepted this. Thus, we have grace (prevenient or saving) required to enable a person to be saved. That does not seem to be radical. The grace that God extends to those He is saving is regeneration. It is consequent to this grace that a person can "hear" the gospel and be saved where before he saw the gospel as foolishness. Something caused this transformation in thinking.

Andrew Barker

rhutchin: Calvinists merely conclude that the unsaved cannot accept salvation and that God must do something to enable them to do so. Even the Arminians accepted this. Thus, we have grace (prevenient or saving) required to enable a person to be saved.

Quite why the Calvinists conclude that the unsaved cannot accept salvation is beyond me. It's not something I read in scripture. In fact the Bible is full of God's call to the unsaved to do just that ... get saved! There is no verse which says that unless God provides grace (be it irresistible or prevenient) we cannot be saved. It simple says that the Gospel IS the power of God unto salvation! As to hearing, the only barrier to hearing is whether or not somebody shares or brings the word of God to that person. That's all. How can they hear unless there is a preacher?

Or maybe you just don't believe that of itself the gospel is the power of God unto salvation?

peter lumpkins

rhutchin

To reemphasize your denial of free will once again only goes to mark the deep divide you earlier seemed to suggest didn't exist--"Most people with whom I talk seem to agree with a lot of things Calvinism has concluded...  They will disagree with "Limited Atonement" but still agree that all will not be saved and not care about the theological arguments involved."

But to deny free will exists at all which is what you appear to be doing (it's actually hard to tell because you've not explained clearly what you mean by total depravity involving a "will that can think rationally) fits into the most radical wing of Calvinist determinists. Even R,C. Sproul and others do not deny moral freedom in the full libertarian sense for humans before the fall. Somewhere Reformed thinker J. Oliver Bushell said that to deny free will implies purely arbitrary dogmatism and is entirely contrary to reasonable evidence and to the biblical view. But you come here and brush aside the entire historic debate in the church by glibly suggesting without proof  "I don't think anyone has yet to explain it other than to show what it is not (e.g., not coercion)." Is it any wonder we have so much confusion amongst us?

Nor is it as simplistic as you make it out to be in dividing free will in salvation matters and free will in everyday affairs. Where did you come up with that dichotomy? Is there a biblical basis for it? Even more, if free will does not exist, how is it possible to even consider dividing free will to believe and free will to decide about vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? 

Nor is your citing Jesus in John 8:32 helpful in your denial of free will. Jesus said absolutely nothing about freeing the will in the passage but the person being freed. And thus unless you are prepared to argue person and will are biblically synonymous, then it hardly follows Jesus is speaking about freedom of the will in any sense in which theologians and scholars use the term free will in their discussions.

What is more, tying free will exclusively to knowing truth which is what you do only makes for more confusion. You say, "If one knows the truth, one is free and thereby able to think rationally." Interesting. That sounds more like Plato than it does the Bible. Paul even cautioned us about putting too much focus on knowledge--"knowledge puffs up" he warned the Corinthians.  Truth wed to the Spirit of God to a receiving hearer seems to be non-negotiable for salvation to take place. I'm afraid your conclusions do not follow.

peter lumpkins

rhutchin

You write, "Calvinists merely conclude that the unsaved cannot accept salvation and that God must do something to enable them to do so." rhutchin, this once again is why there is confusion. You wrongly minimize the difference between Calvinists and non-Calvinists on this issue. You say Calvinists "merely" conclude that the unsaved cannot "accept salvation" unless God does "something" which will "enable" them. What's worse, it seems to me you wrongly flat-line "even Arminians" in accepting the same scenario--"grace (prevenient or saving) required to enable a person to be saved."

First, the mere something Calvinists embrace which "enables" a person to come to Christ is precisely what I stated in the presentation--regeneration. For Calvinists, regeneration precedes faith and repentance. In Calvinism, one first must be born again before one repents and believes for eternal life. Thus, it's not a mere conclusion as you put it. Nor do Arminians accept this either. While classic Arminians do embrace spiritual deadness similarly to the way Calvinists understand it (e.g. Eph 2:1), they do not understand prevenient grace as being born again before belief in the way Calvinists insist. Thus, your placing prevenient or saving grace required to enable a person to be saved (as in both Calvinism and Arminianism) as equitable--"Even the Arminians accepted this"-- remains entirely misleading. Now, I confess I could be wrong. But unless you can produce some credible Arminian sources to demonstrate that Arminians accept regeneration precedes faith the way so many Calvinists embrace it, it will remain you who stands corrected rather than I.

Second, what we can agree upon is God's visitation through His Spirit upon and even within an unbeliever in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel (neither Calvinists nor non-Calvinists, especially SBC non-Calvinists dispute this). But as I stated above, no non-Calvinist suggests the Spirit's visitation constitutes regeneration. Furthermore, from the non-Calvinist perspective, while the Spirit's visitation may constitute enabling a person to believe,  for the Calvinist, it's much, much more. For the Calvinist, not only is the Spirit's accompaniment of the gospel enabling grace, it is effectual grace--or,  the more common term irresistible grace. This grace cannot not be accepted. It must be accepted. In fact, it stands absolutely impossible for this grace to be rejected. If so, then again, it's not about being enabled to believe when one "hears" the gospel. Rather, for Calvinists, in the end it's about not being able to not believe. Of course, we then are faced with the theological corollary of those whom God eternally never planned to bestow the born-again experience. But that's for another time. What is significant here is that the only ones who could believe when presented the gospel are those who are already chosen to be born again.    

Thus, this is the added spice you ignored in your assertions, rhutchin, that makes for absolute confusion when you and others attempt to explain Calvinism as "Calvinists merely conclude that the unsaved cannot accept salvation and that God must do something to enable them to do so."

With that, I am...

Peter 

peter lumpkins

Hi Paul,

Thanks for understanding my dilemma yesterday. I'm sorry you're having issues at your church. I encourage you to become familiar yourself with Calvinism. The standard refrain from so many Calvinists "you just don't understand Calvinism" is to be ignored. They routinely say this no matter who it is who is speaking--a layman such as yourself or a seasoned scholar and/or theologian--"you just don't understand." It never seems to dawn upon them that the reason some people may reject Calvinism is not because they do not understand it but because they do, consequently rejecting it based upon what they believe the Bible to teach. Hence, I'd encourage you to become the "expert" and not wait upon me or another to do it.

It's also not healthy for you, in my view, to hold back your tithes from your church home. That's me, brother. Know I'm not judging you at all, for there could be scenarios that, while that's not ideal, you're convictionally required to do so. For me, those would constitute something highly exceptionally. Rather, if you've concluded your church is not or cannot be the spiritual stronghold of support, you may be better off seeking another fellowship since attending may only perpetuate a nasty case of spiritual frustration.

Know there exists others like yourself (I received a private email from a sister who laments some of the same at her church).

May our Lord give you grace, strength, courage, and particularly patience as you seek to walk with other believers, believers who may not hold some of your core beliefs. God will see you through.

With that, I am...
Peter

David Brainerd

"The standard refrain from so many Calvinists 'you just don't understand Calvinism' is to be ignored."

Absolutely. If anyone doesn't "understand" it, its the Calvinist apologists themselves. The opponents know exactly what it is. But apparently its friends have no clue. After all, how could they believe it if they did...unless they were totally depraved?

rhutchin

Peter wrote, "But to deny free will exists at all which is what you appear to be doing..."

Not exactly. If we have a will, then we can choose according to that will. A person can will to do this and not that.

The issue is whether a person is "free" to will this or that. I have yet to read anything where someone explains how the will is "free." Everything I read assumes that the will is free (which when one then argues that the will is free incurs the logical fallacy of begging the question).

I see those who advocate "free" will being unable to draw a distinction between the will with its ability to choose and the "freedom" with which the will exercises its ability to choose.

So, if you have read a good paper/book on the will and how it is free, please share it. Then I can read it and know where you are coming from

rhutchin

Andrew Barker writes, "Quite why the Calvinists conclude that the unsaved cannot accept salvation is beyond me. It's not something I read in scripture. In fact the Bible is full of God's call to the unsaved to do just that ... get saved! There is no verse which says that unless God provides grace (be it irresistible or prevenient) we cannot be saved."

What saith the Scriptures:

The unsaved cannot hear Christ’s word that they might have life (John 8:43 – Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.)

The unsaved cannot accept he spirit of truth (John 14:17 – the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it cannot see him, neither knows him:)

The unsaved cannot be subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7 – the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.)

The unsaved cannot discern truths of the spirit of God (1 Corinth 2:14 – the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.)

The unsaved cannot confess from the heart that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinth 12:3 – no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.)

The unsaved cannot come to Christ (John 6:44-46; 65 – No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:…Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God)

The unsaved do not even seek God (Romans 3:11;18 there is none that seeketh after God…There is no fear of God before their eyes.)

God's call to the unsaved falls on deaf ears.

So, absent God's grace, how do you see the unsaved escaping their predicament?

rhutchin

Peter writes, "Second, what we can agree upon is God's visitation through His Spirit upon and even within an unbeliever in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel (neither Calvinists nor non-Calvinists, especially SBC non-Calvinists dispute this). But as I stated above, no non-Calvinist suggests the Spirit's visitation constitutes regeneration."

Then, we ask, What do we mean when we say, "the Spirit's visitation"?

If you agree to the necessity of "the Spirit's visitation" before a person can be saved (the preaching of the gospel by itself not being sufficient) then you concede Total Depravity = Total inability - Don't you?

Then, the question, "What do we mean when we say, 'the Spirit's visitation'"? If not regeneration, then what is it that the Spirit does during His visitation - merely to assist the unregenerate to understand the folly of their thinking (but doesn't "free" will make this unnecessary as the will would then be capable of understanding and responding to the gospel absent anything else)???

Max

"If not regeneration, then what is it that the Spirit does during His visitation ...?"

rhutchin - I believe the following quote from "What Baptists Believe" addresses your question. Authored by O.C.S. Wallace and published by the SBC Sunday School Board in 1934, this book was used in the Training Course for Sunday School Workers for several years. (LifeWay should reprint it!)

"It is by the truth that men are made free and alive. But the truth does not effect the spiritual change working alone ... in order that truth may become effective for the transformation of sinful man, it is necessary for the living Spirit of God to use it upon the man; but, on the other hand, it is necessary for the man to know truth. Regeneration takes place only when the soul of the man yields to these ideas. His yielding does not regenerate, though his resistance may hinder regeneration. It is when his soul assents to the truth which has been lodged in his mind, and consents to the domination of these truths in the realm of will and purpose, that he is regenerated."

This certainly describes the Holy Spirit "visitation" I had as a youth and my free will response to the conviction I felt after I heard the message of the Cross of Christ. I believed the Gospel truth I heard that day, realized Christ's sacrifice for me, turned in faith to Him, ran to the altar, prayed a sinner's prayer, repented of my sins on a tear-stained altar step, and felt His presence as forgiveness flooded my soul. I was saved that day and even now thank him for that moment in time when a penitent sinner and a forgiving Savior met. I realize that some Calvinists have a mistrust of personal experience, but I offer mine to you anyway. This is what the Spirit did in His visitation with me. And praise God - He continues to visit me to convict me of sin, direct my path, help me understand His Word, and empower my lay ministry. This is what the Southern Baptists I have known for over 50 years believe.

peter lumpkins

rhutchin,

Concede "total inability"? Why would I do that when there is not a scintilla of indication in Scripture the Spirit's work accompanying the gospel constitutes regeneration; nor is there any indication of "total inability" in Scripture. What happens? you ask. Why should one think there is more to it than Jesus indicated in John 15:8-11? Or what Luke indicates happened to the people upon hearing Peter's pentecostal preaching--they were "pierced to the heart" (Acts 2:37). Nothing in Scripture ever says or even hints a person is born again and then believes. On the other hand, Jesus did indicate a time when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live" (Jn 5:25). Calvinism reverses this and insists no one can hear--"total inability"--until first of all he or she is born again.

In short, what you assume must be regeneration (If not regeneration, then what is it that the Spirit does during His visitation) is wrongly overlayed upon the text of Scripture.

With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

rhutchin

"Everything I read assumes that the will is free (which when one then argues that the will is free incurs the logical fallacy of begging the question)." Then presumably you haven't read much. I encourage you to consider Predestination and Free Will (IVP, 1986), Metaphysics by Wm. Hasker & C. Stephen Evans, Metaphysics by R. Taylor, Significance of Free Will by R. Kane. Once again, to suggest as you that no one seems to be defining what "free" actually means appears to indicate either ignorance of the issues at stake or argumentative banter. Neither is something I actually have the time to address.

peter lumpkins

rhutchin,

You quoted several Bible verses including John 6:44-46, 65; 8:43; 14:17; Romans 3:11, 18; 8:7; 1 Corinth 2:14; 1 Corinth 12:3 concluding, "absent God's grace, how do you see the unsaved escaping their predicament?"

Please exegete just one of the verses (and only one because I don't have time to wade through a lot) which definitively states your theological proposition. Namely, regeneration necessarily precedes faith. Or, being born again is a non-negotiable condition in order to repent and believe.

Here is where the Calvinist can shine. Show us plainly from the Scriptural text the proposition you hold.

Personally I doubt you can do it for the simple reason that Scripture knows no creature you're proposing exists-- a born again unbeliever.

rhutchin

Peter wrote, quoting O.C.S. Wallace, "It is by the truth that men are made free and alive."

This is the point I made earlier. The unsaved are not free and alive (dead in sin, presumably versus being a corpse) until they come to truth, something they cannot do by themselves. Per Wallace, "it is necessary for the living Spirit of God to use [truth] upon the man."

So, what does he mean when he says, "Regeneration takes place only when the soul of the man yields to these ideas." What does, "...yields to these ideas..." mean? Do we conclude that the person has yielded to these ideas when we observe him to accept salvation or is the acceptance of salvation then followed by a yielding to these ideas? To me, it seems that one first yields to truth which then produces acceptance of salvation.

If a person does not yield to the ideas and then does yield to the ideas, something has happened to the man. Regeneration, perhaps?

peter lumpkins

rhutchin,

I didn't bring up the quote you mentioned, but Max did I think. I'll give him time to respond. If he doesn't I'll be glad.

You can, however, respond to my request above:

"Please exegete just one of the verses (and only one because I don't have time to wade through a lot) which definitively states your theological proposition. Namely, regeneration necessarily precedes faith. Or, being born again is a non-negotiable condition in order to repent and believe.

Here is where the Calvinist can shine. Show us plainly from the Scriptural text the proposition you hold.

Max

"What does, "...yields to these ideas..." mean?"

Well, rhutchins, how do you yield to ideas? By your free will!

Lest you chop Dr. Wallace's quote too much to fit a Calvinist grid, look more closely at his final sentence:

"It is when his soul assents to the truth which has been lodged in his mind, and CONSENTS TO THE DOMINATION OF THESE TRUTHS IN THE REALM OF WILL AND PURPOSE, that he is regenerated." Contrary to the picture you paint, he is saying that a man hears the Truth, considers it in his mind, then chooses to receive or reject it. If he believes it and receives it by turning to Christ in faith, he is then born again (regenerated). Whosoever will may come ... or as expressed in another Wallace quote "Salvation comes to the soul that comes to salvation."

rhutchin

Peter wrote, "Please exegete just one of the verses (and only one because I don't have time to wade through a lot) which definitively states your theological proposition. Namely, regeneration necessarily precedes faith. Or, being born again is a non-negotiable condition in order to repent and believe."

I could ask you to do the same with the same result. There is not a verse in the Bible that declares either that regeneration precedes faith or that faith precedes regeneration. Correct? Even those who espouse faith preceding regeneration have no verse to definitively state their theological proposition.

Both sides seek to frame a logical argument drawn from everything the Scriptures say on this subject.

There are many verses describing the unsaved and I listed a few earlier (to which you referred). The unsaved are dead in their sin; they do not seek God; the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to them; etc.

One argument favoring regeneration preceding faith is that faith comes by hearing the gospel preached (Rom 10:17; Heb 4:2). Yet, we are also told that the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness (1 Cor 1:18). This is not surprising since the unsaved (the fool) says that there is no God so the idea that God died on the cross for sin would naturally be foolishness.

How does a spiritually dead person change himself so that he responds to the preaching of the gospel in faith and not with mockery? He can't. God must change him in order for this to happen. You don't have to agree on this, but this conclusion is consistent with what we read in the Scriptures. Salvation is all of God and people cannot initiate any aspect of their salvation; people only react to that which God is doing in them.

rhutchin

Peter writes, "Then presumably you haven't read much. I encourage you to consider Predestination and Free Will (IVP, 1986), Metaphysics by Wm. Hasker & C. Stephen Evans, Metaphysics by R. Taylor, Significance of Free Will by R. Kane."

It is true that I have not read much. However, if the first book is the one by the Basingers (Four views), then I have read that and you maybe have not. All the contributors to that effort assume free will; none attempts to prove it to exist. Should I presume that you have not actually read any of the books you list?

Nonetheless, when a doctrine is clearly articulated and understood by readers, we find it further articulated in more general writings in other books, in blogs, and in discussions on forums. This is not happening.

If you have read those books, you should be able to articulate the basic argument in a few words. If you cannot because it is too complicated, then I suspect it is complicated because of the difficulty involved and this difficulty argues against a real solution to the problem of defining what it means for the will to be "free."

Max

Peter, looks like we have a bad outbreak of total inability going around. Probably time to pray for healing ... it's come to that.

peter lumpkins

rhutchin,

"I could ask you to do the same with the same result." To the contrary, there are many verses in Scripture which indicate faith precedes regeneration, verses concerning which we have dealt with many times over again the last eight years. Hence, it is NOT the same.

I could list and exegete innumerable texts that explicitly indicate that the sole condition which brings eternal life is faith. Nothing else. Faith. Faith in the cross-work of Christ. But you cannot muster a single text which undeniably asserts regeneration is a condition for faith. Nothing? So, no they are NOT the same.

But even if it was the same, what you've just demonstrated is, a key plank in Calvinism's Ordo Salutis is speculative at best since not a single text of Scripture substantiates the maxim--regeneration precedes faith. In fact, it would be surprising if you did since, as I mentioned earlier, the Bible knows no creature as a born-again unbeliever which is what your position necessarily implies if regeneration precedes faith. 


So thank you, rhutchin, for conceding you have no textual evidence, only speculative theological assertion, assertion unfortunately demanded by theological consistency within a wooden theological system. Thus, since you have no textual evidence for your assertion that regeneration precedes faith, do not expect to continue logging the sheer speculation ad infinitum. If Calvinists cannot produce the exegesis they so loudly demand of others, it's time to shut down the exchange.


Finally you ask "Should I presume that you have not actually read any of the books you list?" Well, you may presume as you wish. Shall I take a picture of them sitting on my shelves in my study to demonstrate I own them? And, yes, I must admit Kane's book is extremely complicated, but since he seems to be one of the standard works in the field, I have taken my stabs at it. Taylor on the other hand ought to be required reading for philosophy of religion students (and he's very accessible).


Nor have I remotely suggested as you seem to imply that understanding "free will" does not have its complications. We could add to that "personhood" "image of God" "noetic effects" and many topics in some way relevant to biblical anthropology. Granted. But for me at least, the complications stemming from virtually denying free will's existence, which is what you seem to be proposing, remains far greater, in fact, insurmountable.


And, as for assuming free will exists, my answer would be, "Of course!" At least, pragmatically speaking, both you and I assume we're free each and every day of our lives. We deliberate upon two choices before us, weighing out in our minds, what we judge the better of the two. Whether it's a right or left turn or a blue or green car, we assume we're free to make the choice. More significantly, free will becomes far more pronounced when we consider the actions of others against us. That is, our reaction to what we perceive as wrong toward us becomes even a greater gauge to assuming the free agency of others. We remain convinced he or she could have done otherwise.


Now, unless you want to offer exegesis of a single biblical text demonstrating your theological assertion that regeneration precedes faith, I'll bow out of this part of the exchange. I'm sure readers here would be helped if Calvinists could demonstrate their theological conclusions inferred from explicit biblical-textual exegesis. But I'll leave that to you.


Have a good day. 


With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

Max,

Yes indeed. And what is more, many times when Calvinists are challenged to produce the exegetical goods from which they infer their assertions, their response is telling--Tu quoque

With that, I am..
Peter

Craig Daliessio

For years now I have stated that the Calvinists need to split off from the Non Calvinists and form their own Baptist Convention. But having interacted with them now for a while, I am convinced that they never will do this. Further, if the Non Calvinists were to just hand them the keys and go on and start a new Convention, with even stricter language about NOT being reformed...the Calvinists would simply invade THAT one as well, and start reprimanding the members for poor scholarship and they would set about taking over that Convention as well. It's a personality defect, cloaked in doctrine.

Lydia

"Most people with whom I talk seem to agree with a lot of things Calvinism has concluded."

You might want to get out of your bubble more. :o) Where I come from it is actually producing more and more rabid atheists.

"Many people have bought into the notion of "free will" but cannot explain what "free" means or how one would know if the will were free. Somewhere in time, someone said, "Let's assume that all people have free will," and everyone seemed to say, "Amen.""

So why are totally depraved people (with total inability) punished for crimes they commit? Seems a bit unfair to me since they cannot help it. And what do we do with the "elect" child molester since there is no free will? Why have accountability or responsibility for our behavior? Wait! In many church organizations, we don't!

"Now, we basically have the Calvinist resurgence because people are questioning free will and wondering if the will is really "free." It probably helps that we are living in a society that is becoming increasingly open to depravity and few in the churches are standing against it.
"

Actually, the resurgence falls quite naturally within the slide toward collectivism in this country. We have become an unthinking, irresponsible people. Too many are fine with church leaders directing their beliefs and government micromanaging their lives. Perfect fit for a non thinking people and socialism.

Society has always been "depraved". For many years that depravity ironically happened within a church/state culture and was institutionalized evil. Banishments, torture, imprisonments, etc for disagreeing with doctrine! From the Inquisition to the peasants war to Geneva and so on. If you don't think church history (the elect?) is not full of depravity then there is really nothing to discuss.

Andrew Barker

rhutchin:

How does a spiritually dead person change himself so that he responds to the preaching of the gospel in faith and not with mockery? He can't. God must change him in order for this to happen. You don't have to agree on this, but this conclusion is consistent with what we read in the Scriptures. Salvation is all of God and people cannot initiate any aspect of their salvation; people only react to that which God is doing in them.

There is no such status as being 'spiritually dead', although it is a phrase which is all too common. There are no recognised translations which use it. There is a youth bible which uses it but this is more of a paraphrased version.

When Paul uses the term "dead in trespasses" in Eph he is talking about separation. This is clear from the context. These dead people are apparently 'walking'. In addition Jesus talks about the 'dead' hearing!

rhutchin

Peter writes, "...the complications stemming from virtually denying free will's existence, which is what you seem to be proposing, remains far greater, in fact, insurmountable."

To clarify the issue. Whether a free will exists is not the issue. The issue is who has free will and from what does this freedom come. Calvinists assert that the unsaved are Totally Depraved and thereby have no free will as they are ruled by a sinful nature and cannot do other than sin. Thus, the unsaved, without the grace of God, have no desire for God and cannot - have no ability in them to - save themselves by choosing. It is only when God gives freedom to their wills that they come to Christ. The person who has a "free" will naturally comes to Christ.

Also, Peter writes, "And, as for assuming free will exists, my answer would be, "Of course!" At least, pragmatically speaking, both you and I assume we're free each and every day of our lives. We deliberate upon two choices before us, weighing out in our minds, what we judge the better of the two....We remain convinced he or she could have done otherwise."

Here you speak only of having a will with which we choose this or that. You define "free" as the ability to do otherwise. However, this only says that freedom of the will exists when the will is allowed to choose as it desires and is not constrained or coerced in any manner. This is what the Calvinist says. The unsaved, being totally depraved, have wills that are constrained by their sinful nature so that there is none that does good and they are fools who say that there is no God, and whose wills, being subject to sin, are constrained/coerced to sin - there is none that does good - which is their desire anyway.

To do otherwise with respect to salvation - whether to accept or reject - is not within the power of the unsaved to will because their wills are not free - a point about which the Pelagians take great exception.

The issue, then, is whether the unsaved have wills that are free or can only have a will that is free by the grace of God. Secondary to that, is whether a person with a will that is free would do other than accept salvation.

Since you take the position that faith precedes regeneration, you have the unsaved exercising faith that then allows God to free their will (which then is used only to obey God(?)). Otherwise, you have every person endowed by God with a free will from birth, but then how does one explain a person rejecting salvation if the will is "free."

rhutchin

Andrew Barker writes, "There is no such status as being 'spiritually dead', although it is a phrase which is all too common. There are no recognised translations which use it. There is a youth bible which uses it but this is more of a paraphrased version.

When Paul uses the term "dead in trespasses" in Eph he is talking about separation. This is clear from the context. These dead people are apparently 'walking'. In addition Jesus talks about the 'dead' hearing!"

You confuse physical activities (walking, hearing) with spiritually activities (desiring the things of God). That a "spiritually" dead person can physically walk, talk, etc. is irrelevant to the discussion.

To be spiritually dead is, by definition in Ephesians 2, to be "dead in trespasses and sins."

It is further explained as "in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath."

We can agree that there is a separation as the unsaved walk "according to the course of this world" and not with God.

Otherwise, I don't think your point is valid.

rhutchin

Lydia writes, "You might want to get out of your bubble more. :o) Where I come from it is actually producing more and more rabid atheists."

People are born rabid atheists - they have no fear of God. It is only by the grace of God that they are transformed.

rhutchin

Lydia writes, "So why are totally depraved people (with total inability) punished for crimes they commit? Seems a bit unfair to me since they cannot help it."

Paul explains this in Romans 2. Here Paul says that the unsaved are judged by what they do (v6). He then says that they condemn themselves because they do the same things that they judge (disapprove) others to do (v1).

Since we all cannot help committing crimes (given that we have hard and impenitent hearts (v5)), your real question is why any are saved at all.

God's judgment of any sinner is just regardless what excuses are offered. You seem to sympathize with the Universalist here who ask, Why would God only save (not judge) some and not all?

rhutchin

Craig Daliessio writes, "For years now I have stated that the Calvinists need to split off from the Non Calvinists and form their own Baptist Convention."

Actually, this kinda handled in 1991 in the opposite direction when the moderates (not a Calvinist in the bunch) left and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

peter lumpkins

rhutchin,

I was under the impression I was clear concerning the exchange over "free will" and was only interested in some exegetical comments you might propose to demonstrate the core notion in the Calvinist  Ordo Salutis--regeneration precedes faith. Believe me when I say I understand completely that you'd prefer to ignore my request. Nonetheless my request stands. So, I'll entertain your comments on free will one final time. Then, the only response I'll expect from you will be exegetical comments from one of the many proof texts you cited above, comments which conclude, at least in your mind, there exists sufficient textual evidence to necessarily infer that the Bible teaches regeneration precedes faith. Nor will your engaging other commenters suffice. Either respond accordingly or...well, given your apparent understanding of "free" will, it's really awkward expecting you to choose to respond

Even so, your comments are emboldened.

To clarify the issue. Whether a free will exists is not the issue. The issue is who has free will and from what does this freedom come. I see. You began early on in this exchange questioning if free will has ever been identified (or, perhaps even existed, just merely assumed)--"What exactly does "free will" even mean? I don't think anyone has yet to explain it other than to show what it is not (e.g., not coercion)." But now for clarity's sake we should focus more on who has free will. But if free will has not been either sufficiently defined and perhaps only merely assumed to exist, how could we possibly focus on who has it? The obvious question should now be, Who has what?

Calvinists assert that the unsaved are Totally Depraved and thereby have no free will as they are ruled by a sinful nature and cannot do other than sin. Thus, the unsaved, without the grace of God, have no desire for God and cannot - have no ability in them to - save themselves by choosing.It is only when God gives freedom to their wills that they come to Christ. Yes, that's what Calvinists hold. But they hold it inconsistently. Furthermore, where does the Bible say that every single act committed by an unbeliever is a sin? Can we not reasonably assume that at least some acts unbelievers do are actually good things to do? Suppose an atheist man donates one of his kidneys to a dying Muslim boy and saves his life? Do you think God counts that as wicked or unrighteous? If so, upon what basis do you hold such a view? Whatever happened to the highly biblical notion that we shall all be judged for the works we do, all including Christians and non-Christians alike (not necessarily that believer and unbeliever be judged together)? Furthermore, you seem to equivocate your understanding of what Total Depravity actually means for you go on to say, "the unsaved, without the grace of God, have no desire for God and cannot - have no ability in them to - save themselves by choosing.Leaving aside for now the assertion without proof "have no desire for God" since that must be qualified, you come closer to a biblical definition of the noetic effects of sin when you suggest unbelievers have "no ability in them" to "save themselves" by choosing. Precisely. As Andrew and/or Max rightly mentioned above, the noetic effects of sin ("fall", "dead in trespasses and sin," etc.) reduce to our separation from God. Even if the atheist man does a very good thing by donating a kidney to a dying Muslim boy (and I suspect both you and I would be very grateful to an atheist counting it a very good thing if he happened to be donating a kidney in a supposition where it's our dying offspring), such an act never has nor ever will constitute a righteous act favorably to win a relationship to God. Why? Well, we're dead! (i.e. separated). Only Christ's righteousness wins the Father's ultimate favor. Nothing--good or bad--counts in our heavenly favor so far as the necessary righteous only Christ provides.

The person who has a "free" will naturally comes to Christ. Says who? Care to exegete a few verses to demonstrate your assertion? In addition, what you really mean by "naturally" I suspect actually means unavoidably, irresistibly, and/or necessarily comes to Christ since God eternally decreed it before the foundation of the world. You see, as I explained earlier, for the Calvinist, it's really not about ability to come to Christ. Arminians also believe the lost possesses inability to come to Christ as well as countless other non-Calvinists. You continue to miss the point. Instead, for Calvinists it's irresistABILITY. "Naturally" coming to Christ indicates one cannot not come to Christ, does it not? One "naturally" coming must come to Christ. It seems to me there is no natural to it, only necessity. For my part, your "naturally" coming to Christ remains more reminicient of a rigged cosmic game show than indicating what the Bible textually reveals.

And, we know where that leaves all the non-elect. No non-elect cannot not burn in Hell. They MUST burn in Hell. Perhaps it's not too much to conclude, based upon your premises, the non-elect naturally burns in Hell. It's why God created them, after all, to eternally show forth His justice--at least according to Calvinistic notions you appear to be proposing.

However, this only says that freedom of the will exists when the will is allowed to choose as it desires and is not constrained or coerced in any manner. This is what the Calvinist says. Tying free will to desires per Edwards only delays the inevitable. Still one must ask, And who controls the desires? Well, if God is sovereign in the meticulous sense Calvinists insist, God controls the desires. If not, then there's something in the universe that God does not control, namely a person's desires. I'm afraid that's no help in actually and ultimately understanding free will. And, there's plenty of scholarly material out there profoundly questioning Edwards on the will but chances are I haven't read those either so no use mentioning them to you (wink).

Since you take the position that faith precedes regeneration, you have the unsaved exercising faith that then allows God to free their will (which then is used only to obey God(?)). Otherwise, you have every person endowed by God with a free will from birth, but then how does one explain a person rejecting salvation if the will is "free." Frankly, I see no real challenge in these questions. First, yes I believe faith precedes regeneration--or better, faith is the condition of regeneration in the same sense faith is a condition of justification. I think I can supply innumerable passages of Scripture which indicate no other reasonable inference than that faith leads to life in the very same way faith leads to justification. In fact, many verses you'll find exegeted on this blog over the last 8 years prove just that.

But for you, since regeneration precedes faith, presumably regeneration also precedes justification since faith is surely a condition for justification. Now we've really got problems. In your view, you not only end up with a person who can actually be described, even if only for a nano second, as a born again unbeliever with resurection life--a born again child of the King--but also who's NOT justified, which means he or she is still under God's wrath! Now suppose I asked you to offer us some biblical exegesis to substantiate what your view indicates--namely, that one is not justified by faith alone UNTIL one has already been born-again by the Spirit of God and given resurrection, spiritual life from the dead, do you think you could do it? Imagine it. God gives resurrection life--regeneration--to people still under His wrath since they've neither believed nor been justified in His sight. Sorry, rhutchin, you've forced my hand. Not only do we wait for textual evidence for regeneration precedes faith, but also you will now need to demonstrate from Scripture how regeneration precedes justification

Finally, it's no challenge at all to suppose every person is, as you say, endowed by God with a free will from birth, if in fact we do not overextend our understanding of free will. From my reading of your words, you seem to make the "free" in will into some sort of personal autonomy where "free" is all but absolute. That is, "free" means entirely independent of a myriad other influences--sometimes very powerful influences--even the influence of the Holy Spirit. But there's no reason--biblical or otherwise--to make "free" so absolute and/or unconditional (btw, if you'd read Kane, he mentions this quite often in his book as does Ken Keathley in Salvation and Sovereignty). After all, every facet of our humanness became contaminated after Gen 3, including our moral freedom. Not in the way Augustine insisted in his arguments with Pelagius--that we entirely lost our free will. Rather, as all our other human faculties were surely affected--and seriously affected through the noetic repercussions of sin--so was our free will. Thus, your question concerning how one might explain a person rejecting salvation if the will is "free" poses no real challenge.

In addition, you once again underestimate the implications of your own position. The fact is, your position does not imply a "free" will as you insist since you do not believe a person is "free" to accept Christ once he or she is born again. Nor is it a "free" will in the softer sense I mentioned above. Instead, apparently in your estimation, the person cannot not come to Christ. The regenerate person MUST come to Christ (I'd like to see "free" in this linguistic sense discussed in dictionaries somewhere). Talking about a "free" will to come to Christ that is at the same time a "free" will that is absolutely, non-negotiably, inalterably, irresistibly, and even eternally decreed to "naturally" come to Christ is, for my money, theological doublespeak of the highest order. No wonder the common, Calvinist complaint--"You just don't understand Calvinism!"

Thus, I'm afraid, rhutchin, that the greater negative complications are to be entered into the Calvinist's ledger rather than the non-Calvinist's. At least we can offer sustainable exegesis of key biblical texts that validate our theological inferences not to mention we do not have to depend upon doublespeak to explain our position. Common sense works just fine.

For my part then, the "free" will exchange is over. Enough bantering between us about that--at least until another day when the subject is raised.

Instead I need you to post exposition of at least one of the verses from a long string of texts you cited above which presumably indicated regeneration precedes faith. In addition, we need some biblical evidence with exegetical comments--comments on at least one verse-- which substantiates what seems to be necessarily implied in your core proposition (regeneration precedes faith); namely, since the only condition named in Scripture for a person to be justified is saving faith, and, according to you, saving faith comes after regeneration, where do we find evidence in Scripture that God regenerates a person before he or she has had the atoning work of Christ applied to his or her sin account by faith alone--i.e. non-believers are born again before becoming believers and consequently are justified before God?

Please take your time. But I need the responses to be posted before you can move on.

With that, I am...
Peter

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