In 1965, Roy L. Aldrich, then President of Detroit Bible College, wrote a paper published in Bibliotheca Sacra entitled “The Gift of God.” The scope of the brief piece was to refute the Calvinistic notion that faith was a gift of God only to the elect. Below is an excerpt from Aldrich’s essay which should, in my view, nail the proverbial coffin shut on Calvinism’s unscriptural ordo salutis.
Most Calvinistic commentators believe that the gift of Ephesians 2:8 is saving faith rather than salvation: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8–9). This interpretation leads some to a hyper-Calvinistic doctrine of faith, which in turn leads to an unscriptural plan of salvation.
For example, Shedd says: “The Calvinist maintains that faith is wholly from God, being one of the effects of regeneration.”1 This results in a strange plan of salvation. Because the sinner cannot believe, he is instructed to perform the following duties: 1. Read and hear the divine Word. 2. Give serious application of the mind to the truth. 3. Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit for conviction and regeneration.2
Thus an unscriptural doctrine of total depravity leads to an unscriptural and inconsistent plan of salvation. Doubtless the sinner is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1b). If this means that regeneration must precede faith, then it must also mean that regeneration must precede all three of the pious duties Shedd outlines for the lost. A doctrine of total depravity that excludes the possibility of faith must also exclude the possibilities of “hearing the word,” “giving serious application to divine truth,” and “praying for the Holy Spirit for conviction and regeneration.” The extreme Calvinist deals with a rather lively spiritual corpse after all. If the corpse has enough vitality to read the Word, and heed the message, and pray for conviction, perhaps it can also believe. Incidentally, it would seem evident that the person who would pray earnestly for conviction must already be under a deep state of conviction.
Arthur W. Pink agrees with Shedd. He says the sinner is to “ask God…to bestow upon him the gifts of repentance and faith.”3
L. Berkhof’s position is similar: “This faith is not first of all an activity of man, but a potentiality wrought by God in the heart of the sinner. The seed of faith is implanted in man in regeneration.”4
The tragedy of this position is that it perverts the gospel. The good news becomes only a hopeful possibility. The sinner is wrongly instructed to beg for that which God is already beseeching him to receive (2 Cor 5:20). He is given no assurance that his prayer will be answered. He is really being told that the condition of salvation is prayer instead of faith.
Bibliotheca Sacra 122, no. 487 (1965): 247-249.