What about those who never hear the gospel?

What about those who never hear the gospel?

Along with the concern of one losing their salvation, this has to be the most asked question I receive from students of the Bible. If Jesus is the only way for salvation, then what does that mean for those who have never heard about Him? It is one thing to hear and reject the gospel truth, but to be condemned for rejecting a message you never heard just does not seem fair.

There is just one problem with that reasoning. Mankind is not condemned for rejecting the gospel message. They are condemned for sin. Our sin is an offense against an eternally holy God, thus the only just punishment must likewise be eternal, which the scripture describes in horrific terms as a place called hell (Mt. 25:31-46). Justice demands hell for all who sin against God.

The gospel is an appeal to repent and believe in Christ, so as to be rescued from this much-deserved just punishment. God does not owe salvation, or even the means to be saved to anyone. It is wrong minded to approach this question as if any sinner deserves more than divine justice.

Our heavenly Father desires mercy over justice (Mt. 5:38-48, Mt. 12:7). He is a loving and gracious God who does not want any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9, Ezk. 18:30-32). God is all-loving and perfect in every way so we can trust that He will always do what is right, even when we do not understand.

While scripture may not give us perfect clarity on this topic, we do have some strong biblical insight that helps guide our thinking:

God’s eternal power, divine nature, and all that may be known about God’s invisible qualities, is plain for everyone to see and understand. This is referred to as God’s “general revelation,” which renders all people “without excuse” for their unbelief (Rom. 1:19-20, Acts 14:17, Heb. 3:4, Ps. 19:1). While this revelation is not sufficient to lead someone to faith in Christ, there is strong biblical evidence to support that it is sufficient to lead to the acknowledgement of God and the potential of further revelation (Lk. 16:10-12).

J.I. Packer taught “that God’s general revelation, even when correctly grasped, yields knowledge of creation, providence, and judgment only, not of grace that restores sinners to fellowship with God” (1973, p. 115). While this is certainly true, nothing in the text suggests that mankind is unable to respond to such revelation by either “exchanging the truth for lies” (Rm. 1:25) or “retaining the knowledge of God” (Rm. 1:28). Such inability to respond to this revelation would nullify the point of the apostle in verse 20 in declaring that all are “without excuse.” (i.e. “I was born unable to respond to God’s revelation.”)

This ability to respond (responsibility) in light of God’s clear revelation does not solve the problem of sin and the need for redemption, however. Even those who acknowledge what they know of God to be true still deserve condemnation for their sin. Sinners who respond in reverent fear and attempt to be faithful to His laws (or their conscience) are still sinners. They still deserve hell and condemnation (Rom. 3:10-11, 23). Even their good deeds would be as worthless as filthy rags given the penalty due for their sin (Is. 64:6).

Throughout the scriptures we see examples of God “finding favor” in believing individuals (Job, Enoch, Noah, Abram, etc), but these men, like all of humanity, still fell short of God’s glory and were unrighteous according to the demands of God’s law. They needed a savior. They needed redemption and reconciliation. Even those who believe the truth of God’s revelation deserve eternal punishment for their sin.

What must be understood is that no one was righteous according to the demands of the law. However, that does NOT mean that all people are unable to believe God’s revealed truth so as to be credited as righteous by God’s grace. Paul taught that no one was righteous in Romans 3, yet he turns around and declares in the very next chapter that, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (4:3).

How can that be? Has Paul contradicted himself? First he declares that no one is righteous and then he tells us that Abraham was righteous? Which is it?

Paul is drawing the distinction between righteousness by works (Rm. 3:10-11) and righteousness by grace through faith (Rm. 3:21-24). The former is unattainable but the latter has always been very much attainable by anyone, which again, is why ALL ARE “WITHOUT EXCUSE” (Rm. 1:20)

Without excuse for what? For their unbelief in God’s revelation.

When it comes to revelation, scholars speak in terms of two distinct kinds: God’s general and special revelation. General revelation is just that, God making Himself known generally through the natural world and moral conscience. Special revelation consists of His Word, the Messiah and His inspired message.

God certainly holds man responsible to all His revelation, yet there are some biblical scholars who teach that mankind is born unable to respond to any revelation of God without first being born again. (see pre-faith regeneration of Calvinism)

Is it right to hold someone responsible to something for which they are unable to respond? If a man had a dog that was born deaf and he punished it harshly for her lack of response to his verbal commands, would anyone consider such actions good or just? Not even for a dog is this kind of treatment deemed acceptable. Should we conclude that God would act in this manner toward his own image bearers, those He loves? I cannot fathom that our perfect Father would treat people in this manner. And I have yet found anyone who can show me an example from scripture of God holding men responsible for that which they were never given the moral ability to respond.*

But, one may object at this point and remind me of my earlier statements regarding man’s sinful condition and the fact that fallen humanity deserves nothing more that what is just, the punishment of hell. However, I am not talking about man being held accountable for his sin. I am specifically addressing sinful man’s response-ability to God’s revelation. Some scholars confound this issue by speaking of man’s responsibility to God’s revelation when really they are referencing man’s culpability for their sin. Let’s unpack this point:

  1. All humanity is guilty for sin and deserves hell. (We can agree on this point.)
  1. Sinners are held responsible to God’s revelation. (Here is where some disagree.)

When some scholars speak of man being “responsible to God’s revelation” they really mean that man is “justly punished due to their sinfulness even though they cannot respond to God’s revelation.” This is confounding two separate issues causing much confusion over this topic. We must separate each point in order to understand the truth as revealed in scripture.

While it is certainly true that all fallen man is deserving of hell, it is certainly untrue that fallen man is born unable to respond to God because of that fall. Let’s look in Genesis 3 and see if the first man is able to respond to God after he sinned:

 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Adam answered God even after he had fallen revealing his ability to do so. Did God have to regenerate Adam to grant him the ability to respond? The text certainly never indicates that need.  Let us look at another example:

Acts 28:23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

 26“‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:27-28; emphasis added)

Some people ridicule pastors who allow their invitations to go on too long, yet in this passage we witness Paul earnestly attempting to persuade his fellow countryman for the entire day. Some were persuaded while others refused to believe. What does Paul conclude about the condition of these people?

  1. They had become calloused. The problem is not a lack of revelation. They have one of the greatest biblical teachers in the world pouring out SPECIAL revelation all day long.   So, what is the problem according to Paul? Maybe the Calvinists are right and all men are born total unable to see, hear, understand and turn in light of the revelation?

That is not what Paul concluded. Paul does not teach that these men were born calloused, but they had become such by ignoring God’s truth and replacing it with their man-made self-righteous dogma. Babies are not born with callouses on their hands or their hearts. Scripture warns all of us not to allow our hearts to grow hardened in this manner (Heb. 3:8). They were calloused by their own doing, not God’s rejection or lack of revelation (Rm. 10:21, Mt. 23:37).

  1. Otherwise they might see, hear, understand and turn. What is the ability of someone who has not yet grown calloused? Paul spells it out very clearly in this passage: “they might turn.” These men have no excuse for their unbelief because they have rejected the truth for so long that they have grown calloused to it; otherwise they might turn and be healed.

Notice the contrast with the Gentiles in verse 28, “they will listen.” Why does Paul draw this conclusion? Is it because Gentiles are more moral or less fallen in their sin? Are Gentiles less deserving of hell? Of course not. Gentiles were known to be grossly immoral in this day. We must understand that there is a difference in being culpable for sinful immorality and growing calloused to divine revelation sent to rescue us from our sinful condition. The former doesn’t necessarily imply the latter. This is why we can affirm the concept of “Original Sin” (man is born with a sinful nature and in need of a savior) while denying the doctrinal teaching of Total Inability (man is born unable to see, hear, understand or turn in light of God’s clear revelation).

Why is all this relevant to the question at hand? Because it speaks to the natural man’s abilities to respond to the light of God’s revelation, IN CONTRAST TO their culpability for sin. When one confounds those two doctrines it becomes as difficult as untangling a wad of fishing line to correct.

(Warning: Beware of the “Pelagian Heresy Police” if you dare take on the challenge of untangling this mess. Pelagianism is the “boogie man” of Calvinism. Some Calvinists pull out this label anytime they do not want to deal with the substance of the argument but rather label and dismiss it as heretical. This serves to scare off the undiscerning from being willing to dive below the surface level of the argument. In my opinion, it is a lazy approach to biblical study and strong theological dialogue. )

KEY POINT: Both the Jews and the Gentiles are equally culpable for being sinful (Rom 1-3). Both Jews and Gentiles are NOT equally calloused in their self-righteousness, which is what makes it so difficult for the Israelites to respond to God’s clear revelation.

Why do you suppose Jesus referred to a child as an example of what we must become like to enter His kingdom (Mt. 18:3)? What is the difference in the condition of a child’s heart and the heart of an older man? Are they both equally “hardened” from birth as some impose onto the text? Clearly not. The heart of a child, while fully culpable for sin, has not yet grown calloused and stubborn in his rebellion. A child, like the Gentiles referenced above, “will listen” because they are able to “see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and turn” (Acts 28:27-28).

Now, that addresses the ability of man to respond to the special revelation, but what about the general revelation? Is there any biblical reason to suggest that man is not “able to respond” for that which God holds him “response-able?” Paul’s declaration of no one having any excuses in light of God’s clear revelation certainly suggests no good excuse exists. Any doctrine that teaches man is born unable, by God’s own decree, to respond to His clear revelation certainly seems to be giving back the very excuse that Paul is attempting to remove. For what better excuse is there for not responding than an innate inability to do so as determined by one’s own creator?

Keep in mind that Calvinists must conclude that God has never desired the salvation of those who do not hear the gospel, which is biblically indefensible (1 Tim. 2:4, Ez. 18:30-31, 2 Pt. 3:9). Non-Calvinists believe God genuinely desires for all to come to repentance, as scripture clearly states, which is why we are not so quick to dismiss the concept of human responsibility (the ability to respond to God’s revelation).

In Romans 1, Paul taught that men’s “thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires” (vs. 21, 24). They were not born futile, darkened and given over. Paul is revealing the natural result of those who continue to ignore God’s revelation and “trade the truth in for lies.” Not everyone who has ever lived would match the description of the apostle. Some people feared the Lord, worshipped Him in earnest and believed in the revelation they received (Heb. 11).

OBJECTION ANTICIPATED: Professor, are you suggesting that people were able to respond to God’s general revelation in faith? That is the heresy of pelagianism!

That objection is confounding two separate points. Please go back and re-read the article until you understand the distinction between a sinful man’s culpability for sin and a sinful man’s responsibility to God’s revelation.

As explained above, Paul is addressing two types of righteousness being pursued: One is by works and the other is by faith. All have fallen in regard to the former, but not the latter. No one is able to attain righteousness by works, but that does not mean that no one is able to attain righteousness by faith (Rom. 9:30-32).

In Romans 1:1 – 3:20, Paul is attempting to demonstrate that both Jews and Gentiles have fallen short of the demands of God’s law. He IS NOT attempting to teach that man is born unable to respond in faith to the revelation of God. That would give them back the very excuse he took away in verse 20 of chapter 1.

The reason this has become such a perplexing question for so many students of the bible, is because some have confounded Paul’s teaching to suggest that man is unable to acknowledge God in light of His general revelation and yet we are to believe He holds mankind “responsible” for their response to that revelation.

It is one thing for parents to discipline their children for lying by grounding them to their room. It is a whole other thing for parents to lock the door from the outside and then hold the children responsible for not coming out when called. Likewise, it is possible for us to affirm man’s complete culpability for sin (i.e. being sent to their room) while still rejecting the notion that God has disabled sinners from responding to his own revelation all the while holding them responsible (i.e. locking the door so as to disable one from responding to an appeal for reconciliation).

So, what is the answer to the question, “What about those who never hear the gospel?”

Everyone has what they need to respond to God.

No one anywhere in this world has any excuse for his or her unbelief. Mankind is responsible to all of God’s revelation because they are able to respond to all of God’s revelation. If they acknowledge the truth of the little revelation that they have received then God is faithful to entrust them with more (Mt. 25:21). If they trade the truth in for lies then they have no excuse (Rm. 1:20).

In short, the general revelation is sufficient to lead any one to know God’s special revelation, thus no one has any excuse for their unbelief. Paige Patterson recorded a statement, endorsed by many Southern Baptist leaders, that put it this way, “…whenever or wherever in the world there is a man or woman who cries out to God with all of his heart, ‘Lord I want to know you, I want to know what kind of a God you are,’ then I [God] will make it possible for him to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is that God is so loving and so merciful that He makes Himself available to everyman who seeks Him, which is why the Bible says, ‘You shall find Me when you seek for Me with all your heart’” (Jer. 29:13). <link>

By the way, I think it takes more work to get to hell than to get to heaven. I do not believe in works salvation, but I do believe in works damnation. It takes work to trade the clear truth of God in for lies. CLICK HERE to read more

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Brian Wagner, a New Testament Professor and regular contributor on this blog, sent me this list of passages for consideration on this subject:

John 1:9 [That] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

John 16:8-9 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me;

Acts 17:24-27 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

Romans 1:19-21 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed [it] unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Romans 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Romans 2:14-16 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Romans 10:17-18 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

Colossians 1:5-6 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as [it is] in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as [it doth] also in you, since the day ye heard [of it], and knew the grace of God in truth:

Colossians 1:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.

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*(Note: Please do not reference our inability to keep the law as proof for the false notion that God readily holds men responsible for that which they cannot do. Why? Because its begs the question to presume that because we are unable to fulfill the demands of the law that we also are unable to admit that fact and believe in the one who fulfilled the law on our behalf.)

Packer, J.I. (1973), “Are Non-Christian Faiths Ways of Salvation?,” [Part IV of a series titled, “The Way of Salvation”], Bibliotheca Sacra, April.

174 thoughts on “What about those who never hear the gospel?

    1. Scripture doesn’t address this but those who are able to understand and communicate would not have any excuse. I’d suspect mentally handicapped would be regarded as children which most scholars believe would be shown mercy.

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      1. Leighton .. you are forgetting about the “everlasting gospel” (Ro 1:18-21,Rev 14:6). What it says is that if a person will acknowledge the God that reveals Himself to them .. if they glorify, worship, and thank Him .. and they are not aware of any sin they have committed against Him .. then they are still “just” according to innocence. Like Job, God will put a hedge around them that only they can take down through sinning against Him. If they die, they go to heaven and will be resurrected with the “just” into the MK of Messiah/Christ, there to choose to believe on Him as the only way to be saved.

        Now this works especially for children! And especially for Christian families. Think about it. They are brought up praying, worshiping, thanking, glorifying, etc, God. They have committed no sin that they know of against Him. If they die, they die in innocence.

        But biblical examples of this in adults are Job and Cornelius. Job did all the things required under the everlasting gospel (so did Cornelius). Of Job, we find that God allowed Satan to get to him because Job was too faithful to God for Satan to get at him any other way. And so we find in Job 7:11 the Job did sin against God (was lost). In 7:20-21 we find out that he is convicted of his sin and knows that he isn’t going to heaven anymore.

        But God always sends a “messenger” when they have sinned to such folks/children because they believe in Him. In Job 33:23-33 we see Elihu preaching the gospel to Job saying explicitly that if any shall pray, “‘I have sinned and perverted that which was right and it profited me not,’ then God will deliver his soul from going to the pit and his life shall see the light.” Read the entire text for yourself.

        Leighton, this is the SAME repentance God calls us to pray in order that we not go down to the pit once we have sinned against Him! In Job 42:5-6, we see Job praying just such a prayer to God, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” And what happened then? God gave Job a “new life,” (42:10) just like He will us!

        Well, what can I say? I’ve been knowing this for years now but it just isn’t orthodox enough, is it?

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      2. Hi Robert! I agree with your take on God’s dealings with all humanity, as clearly shown in Rom 1, 2 and Job 33:14-30. However, I don’t think you have proven from Job 7 and 42 that Job lost his salvation and then got it back… There are too many clear professions of his confidence in his salvation and in his Savior throughout his dialog. But Job did rhetorically question why, what sin, was causing this suffering, for he did not recognize at that point that his suffering had a divine purpose and felt God should defend his innocence. Of course, those demands upon God were sins, and needed to be repented of, but those sins had not caused Job to lose his salvation.

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    2. Hello, I realize this posting is older. But I have a general question and would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on them. My interest is in finding the best interpretation of the Bible. I have wavered between Calvinism, and ‘nothing’. Maybe just calling myself a Biblicist, but really I am quite interested in the Traditionalist position. So please answer my question if you can.

      When we talk about the lost who never hear…my first thought is: if freewill is really the best understanding of the Bible then why doesn’t everyone have opportunity to hear the Gospel? Romans 1 gives a good answer to while they go to hell and God is just for this…but it doesn’t really seem to satisfy the question well. I mean how can someone really make a choice, when they aren’t really presented with more than one option…or at least the right option?

      Let me give an example to try to make this more clear. You have a remote village, and for many generations they have a folk religion that they follow, and then a missionary comes and finds some bridge into their culture and shares the Gospel. A bunch of people believe. So this is the part that I have a hard time putting together…why all of the sudden, after many generations of people who worshipped the creation rather than the creator, is this village turning to God? I would agree with Dr. Flowers…they have heard the Gospel, it is the power unto salvation. But the lingering question that isn’t addressed, is why did this generation get the Gospel and the opportunity to believe, but the previous generation did not receive it. They both seem equally wicked and gone astray, because after all they are practicing some folk religion.

      Now my line of thinking continues…if the Gospel hasn’t come to a people yet…and therefore they are unable to repent and believe…how is this any different than election? Now we have just moved the bars for election. Now it’s as though election is merely where you are born, who your parents are, what your culture is. If you are born in some remote village without access to the Gospel…then you will be equated as the reprobate because you will never get to hear the Gospel message. Perhaps I am making some logical mis-step. I personally do not care for Calvinism because I think some points are a misreading of the text…but in this particular area of interest I feel that the Calvinist viewpoint makes more sense out of what we see going on in the world. We can simply say they aren’t elect, thats why they didn’t get a chance to hear the Gospel. Whereas, the LFW view is saying, they need to be faithful in little…so if they seek the creator…and then God will make a way for them to hear the Gospel. (And although there are certainly some cases for they happening) This doesn’t seem to follow my understanding of modern missions…where missionaries reach that remote village and don’t find a bunch of followers of the creator God, but instead followers of spirits and the creation. Yet when the Gospel is preached to them…some turn and believe. In my estimation this happens because they have been given a better worldview, they have heard the truth, they now have a clear choice in which to exercise their LFW.

      A second question: Is God entrusting the church to bring the Gospel to the world? How is that fair that God isn’t allowing some access to the Gospel because the church is slow to fulfill the Great Commission? Why did I get to hear the Gospel clearly presented as an American, and be given opportunity to repent with the powerful life giving Gospel message? I certainly wasn’t seeking God, but instead, my older brother who was recently saved was pursuing me and sharing with me. What an amazing gift to be born in a place with an active church and believers and the Bible. How does the Traditionalist deal with this issue? How can we be honest saying God wants all to come to repentance while God (through the church) is simultaneously not sending the Gospel out to everyone. This is where in my opinion the Calvinist view seems to offer a stronger answer (even though I don’t really like the answer). These examples to me do in fact seem like arbitrary election…which I don’t prefer to believe in…so how do we reconcile all of these things?

      Thanks to anyone who helps me out!

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      1. Great questions Travis! But let me say something that might shock you! Paul says they have “heard”! Rom 10:18.

        You wonder why some accept the gospel when a missionary arrives in a village that was under the control of a false religion… I think we can safely assume that, just like those brought up in our churches hearing the Scriptures may be actually believing something else, those brought up in false religion may be inwardly rejecting their community’s idolatry and believing something else. Only God knows the heart, and Paul says the secrets of men’s hearts will be judged by the gospel, Rom 2:16.

        So the Scripture clearly says God gives light to each person in the world to enable them to seek and find Him (Job 33:14-30, John 1:4-13, Acts 17:26-30, Rom 1, 2, 11:32). I think that light is clear enough for a person to come to the place where they are able to cry out “God be merciful to me a sinner” (see Luke 18:13-14) and be saved. But if they harden their hearts against the light they receive they are without excuse just like the one hearing the Scriptures and not responding in our churches. That light is at least clear enough for them to begin to seek in response to the light… and if they seek, they will find!

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      2. Thanks for the reply Brian. I understand the idea of the general revelation you are getting from Romans 10:18 (which is quoting Ps, that the creation speaks) and other verses you mentioned. I am curious do you then take Romans 2 to somehow mean that people can be justified by faith in a God of general revelation? It seems that those being saved throughout the Bible are receiving more than just general revelation, they know God, and seem to be in communication with him somehow. To me it is difficult to apply these cases from within the Bible text to these other situations, like the hypothetical one I created, where there is no element of special revelation. And I appreciate your response using several verses. To me the difficulty is that the church has moved slowly in spreading the Gospel…which is depressing considering what’s at stake, but what is even more depressing is the lack of people seeking out God around the world, obviously in places with no access to the Gospel, but also in places that already have it (as you mentioned). Though, let’s compare fairly…in a place like America where you have millions of people believing something like 26%…vs a place like Southeast Asia where around 2-3% are believing. What is the difference? Well most people in America grow up hearing about God…most people in SE Asia don’t. I guess it’s this type of comparison I am trying to understand. I’m not sure the correct conclusion. Should we conclude that the special revelation of the Gospel is more powerful to persuade people to believe than general revelation? This is what is making the question challenging to me…because it seems to follow that if this is true…what is God waiting for if He genuinely desires that people should repent and believe? Maybe we should conclude rather that God has elected more in the USA than in SE Asia for the purpose of his glory? I’m sure it’s more complicated…and that Satan blinding the world (2 Cor 4:4) has something to do with it…but again it seems easier to understand through a Calvinist systematic.

        I guess the common view I have heard in the church is that without the Gospel, you can’t be saved. So the Traditionalist view makes God seem negligent (because the Gospel hasn’t gone forth), and in the Calvinist view…God isn’t electing them, for a reason we can’t understand but trust that it is good (because he is controlling everything and has decided not to send the Gospel out to them). Now I see that maybe that in your approach this is too tight of a constraint. As you mention people need the light of general revelation, and if they seek it out perhaps they will humble themselves in faith that they need this God to pardon them because they are sinful. And that humbleness in faith without the Gospel will be enough. Correct me if I misunderstood you.

        Again thanks for the reply.

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      3. Hi Travis! Thank you for the response and questions. You asked – “I am curious do you then take Romans 2 to somehow mean that people can be justified by faith in a God of general revelation? ”

        If you looked at the passages I listed you will see that God has always been in the business of doing things to get each person to seek. I do believe we have to define what the gospel is in simplest terms that God would accept as an expression of faith before granting His righteousness as a gift of salvation.

        It is not just general revelation by itself, but God specifically using general revelation at specific times in an individual’s life (He makes it plain in them by showing it to them, Rom 1:19-20). Elihu in Job 33 says it happens at least two or three times. Do you think being specifically brought by God to the knowledge of Him as creator and of one’s own sin would be enough light for a heart to cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner”? I do! Wouldn’t that be truly expressing childlike repentance and trust in the “gospel” (God is my mercy) in its most rudimentary form, much like the form it had in the OT, especially before the law of Moses? See Luke 18:13-14.

        I believe our drive for missions should come from a love for the lost who do not have as much light as we do, and to co-labor with God who is already out there in difficult settings drawing men and women to seek Him. I also believe we will meet in heaven many who cried out, “God be merciful to me a sinner”, who never knew the story of the Bible, and yet God saved their soul! And I believe that in the west there may not be as many truly saved as we might think, even though they know the Scripture’s account of the gospel and they call themselves’ “Christian”.

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  1. Actually, Psalm 19 addresses the issue of deaf and blind. Those who are deaf can obviously still see the creation which declares the glory of God. To address the blindness, the psalmist chooses one aspect of creation, the sun to demonsrate the effectiveness of this display. The sun comes out of its chambers like a bridegroom and travels across the sky. He says that nothing is hidden from its heat. The blind are without excuse because of the warmth the sun provides. Indeed, all people are
    without excuse.

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    1. Then explain these verses:

      Rom 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

      Rom 5:13 For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

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    2. Thanks, Bryan. I call Job in Ch 1 “safe,” not saved. Saved is when Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, right? Even under the “kingdom of heaven” gospel of the OT they looked forward to the salvation of God. What Job did was worship God and trust God. And look at 7:21 — “God had not pardoned Job’s transgression. How does he know this? Because his conscience was not pardoned of sin guilt. That only happens when one is saved.

      Here’s a look at what he thought: “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time I will wait, till my change come.” (14:14) That is, till he salvation come, right? And it did in 42:10.

      I love 14:12-17 and 19:25-28 though. He does have a good “handle” on what it would be to be saved! He just is unsure how He will accomplish His salvation.

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      1. Good morning Bob. Thanks for your reply. I believe the OT and NT teaches that saved is when God’s righteousness is imputed to us through /in response to our faith. We clearly see that in Gen 15;6 which Paul discusses in his great chapter on imputation – Rom 4. And Elihu discusses it in Job 33:26-30. Job had that faith and was imputed God’s righteousness. He was saved.

        I think you are trying to prove too much from Job;s complaint, using rhetorical questions, in 7:20-21. He wants God to defend his innocence and uses these questions as a way to urge God to do it. I is not professing that he knows that he is unsaved… just the opposite. Also 14:14-15 are also a plea for this trial to be over… Job wishes he was dead, because he does know there is a resurrection and God is going to call him forth! He knows he is saved and has a righteous standing before God.

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  2. By the way I was referring to someone being both blind and deaf. A blind person can hear the Gospel and a deaf person can read the Gospel but if they are both they can’t see or hear the Gospel or hear,see or feel nature and understand it.

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    1. James. I don’t know if you are familiar with Helen Keller from the last century. She was deaf and blind but learned to speak and even gained a college education. I don’t think she had a clear Christian testimony, but she did say positive things about God. For instance – “A simple, childlike faith in a Divine Friend solves all the problems that come to us by land or sea.” She also said – “I thank God for my handicaps; for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.” Her faith could be described as rather pluralistic, influenced by Swedenborg theology.

      But general revelation also does not only consist of what can be seen or heard. Solomon reminds us that God has put “eternity” in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). Helen Keller also said – “I believe in the immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings.”

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  3. Pastor Flowers writes, “Everyone has what they need to respond to God.”

    If everyone has what they “need” for salvation, then all should be saved else “need” must have been deficient for those not saved.

    The issue – for the non-Calvinist – is to explain how one person who has “all he needs to respond to God,” goes in one direction while another goes in another direction. Presuming a true, geneuine libertarian free will, without outside influences corrupting a person’s choice, two people should make the same decision simply because they are equally exposed to the preaching of the gospel (explaining the serious problem for those who do not hear the gospel). For two people to make completely opposite decisions of this magnitude (eternal life vs eternal death) requires that one person have made a free, rational decision but the other to make an irrational decision that is not really free. A person making an irrational decision cannot be described as having libertarian free will. Rather, something has had to corrupt his judgment. As you rightly state, ” I think it takes more work to get to hell than to get to heaven.” Something has gone terribly wrong for those who “choose” hell over heaven – such people cannot have had what they “need” to respond to God.

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    1. You said: “Two people should make the same decision simply because they are equally exposed to the preaching of the gospel.” Why? People who are truly allowed to think on their own, will come up with totally different responses because of who they have allowed themselves to become. However, It is not as simple as choosing heaven or hell for us on Earth. If we were stood before God as adults at birth and were asked to choose heaven or hell, yes, I believe everyone would choose heaven. Therefore, it is by our very choices throughout our lives, that bring us to the point of possessing a hardened heart or not. Everything, including who we (decision on decision) decided to be in our lives shaped us into who we are. There are an inestimable number of responses to events in our lives that work to design us. In the first chap. of Romans we are told that men’s hearts became darkened so God gave them over to their sinful desires. God did not give them over to their sinful desires first. It was only after their hearts became darkened.

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  4. Brother Leighton,

    You said…. “All revelation is of God’s Grace and thus it is all sufficient to accomplish its given purpose.”

    I have pointed this out several times to our Calvinist/Arminian brothers. In the gospel of John everyone who did believe did so either because of something Jesus said (his words) or did (the miracles). Every time.

    Now while I agree with you that even revelation is of God’s grace, the Calvinist/Arminian will insist that revelation is not enough because of man’s depravity. For both the Calvinist and Arminian a “special” grace is needed to overcome man’s depravity or he can’t believe anything.

    Since I reject TD/TI, I see no need for prevenient grace. That is, a grace that overcomes man’s depravity thus restoring him to a pre-fall, pre-lost state. Of course, as you said, here comes the chants of “Pelagianism” and “Semi-Pelagianism”, ironically, with absolutely no consideration of what the book says.

    Now lately, it has come to my attention that some of my Baptist brothers state that while they reject total inability, they do hold to prevenient grace, which is a head-scratcher for me. Prevenient Grace is the solution/remedy for total inability. If you reject one you should reject the other.

    I would greatly appreciate your thoughts.

    God bless.

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    1. It could be deemed semantical but Gods revelation of himself meets all the qualifications of what Arminians refer to as prevenient grace so I see no reason for the redundancy. Use the words of scripture when they apply IMHO.

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      1. Brother Leighton,

        Understood.

        I maintain that while man did inherit a sin nature due to the fall, man never lost his response-ability to God. In other words man can still respond favorably to God even in a depraved, lost condition. I don’t see in scripture where Adam lost the ability to respond favorably to God since he obviously brought Him offerings by faith [and, no, he wasn’t regenerated (Calvinism) or released from the bondage of sin (Arminianism)].

        But the question is….does God’s revelation overcome man’s inability (TD/TI)?

        For the Calvinist/Arminian it has to. For them, the depraved sinful nature must first be addressed or the lost sinner will never come to faith. I say man’s depravity does not prevent him from believing so prevenient grace is unnecessary. All man needs to believe is the word of God, which I believe the scriptures blatantly teaches.

        Now I could be wrong, but this is what I lean towards.

        I appreciate your time.

        Grace.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Phillip writes, “But the question is….does God’s revelation overcome man’s inability (TD/TI)?

        For the Calvinist/Arminian it has to….All man needs to believe is the word of God, which I believe the scriptures blatantly teaches.”

        Not exactly. I Colossians 1, Paul tells believers that, “[God] delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” Thus, the Calvinist says that God materially changed the situation of those who come to salvation. It was only after God effected that change that the person could respond to the gospel – prior to that we see the result Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 1: “…the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”

        The Greek/Gentile, in his depraved state, only sees the gospel as foolishness. It is only after God delivers the depraved individual from the power of darkness, that the gospel becomes more than foolishness, and the person so delivered now finds that he is drawn irresistibly to Christ by that gospel.

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      3. Hey Philip, Rhutchin has it almost correct, except for the statement of being transferred out of the kingdom of darkness before being enabled to respond to the gospel. He must hold to that false idea so that he can maintain Calvinism’s false idea that only a few individuals, chosen before creation, will be forced into salvation against their will. They can’t have anyone else “sneaking” into the Kingdom of God by some kind of universal opportunity to believe in Christ’s abundant mercy, which He purchased for all mankind. 🙂

        All grace before salvation is prevenient, and that is what I think Leighton’s position is, meaning that to use the word “prevenient” is redundant, since all grace to the unbeliever is designed to lead to salvation. I think where Leighton and I may disgree, and where I believe in a universal TD/TI (Rom 11:32), is that God draws irresistibly through enlightenment and conviction (John 1:9, 16:7-8) to bring even that most hardened to an opportunity for repentance, but at that moment, when given “ears to hear”, there is not an additional irresistible drawing into a commitment of faith, which would of necessity lead to becoming born again. This opportunity of repentance can be resisted, and another opportunity may not follow, even if the actual words of the gospel are physically heard again (Hebrews 3:7-8).

        As this relates to the blog above, I personally believe God gives everyone at some point, enough enlightenment and conviction the ability and opportunity to call upon God for mercy to remove the guilt and habits of their sin and to deliver them into His presence after death. That is faith in the “gospel” in my understanding of Scriptures. This is based on Scriptures that speak of God’s universal enlightenment and conviction, creation and conscience, and God’s making of it all plain enough so that man is without excuse. He makes plain, at least once, (and perhaps three times in life, cf. Job 33:14-29) His Godhead, their sin, coming judgment, and their need to cast themselves upon Him for mercy.

        Anyone brought to that moment of repentance by God, even if only through His active use of creation and conscience to call them, becomes enabled to cry out – “God be merciful to me a sinner” and to go their way justified, as Jesus confirmed (Luke 18:14). But if they hear the gospel, this way, (cf. Rom. 10:18), they must respond at that moment, or God may not draw their attention to it again through creation and conscience. “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart!”

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      4. brianwagner writes, “I personally believe God gives everyone at some point, enough enlightenment and conviction the ability and opportunity to call upon God for mercy to remove the guilt and habits of their sin and to deliver them into His presence after death. ”

        If it were true that God gives each person “enough” enlightenment and conviction, then all should be saved else it was not “enough.”

        We can rightly conclude that God gives His elect “enough” enlightenment and conviction. The Scriptures provide many statements as to those things God has done for HIs elect. Does God do the same for the reprobate? No.

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      5. “Enough” to be able to make a decision for the truth, as you know Rhutchin from your experience as a professing believer, does not mean that you cannot still resist making that decision for the truth. In fact you are resisting the clear truth that you are being taught from God’s Word even now. If you can be enabled as a professing believer to decide for or against the truth, an unbeliever can certainly be enabled by God to decide for the truth and yet still choose to resist accepting it!

        I know, Rhutchin, that you will still profess that no one would truly resist an offer of everlasting life that they understand is true, but I say again that neither should one truly be able to resist obeying the will of their Father God who saved them, especially when they truly understand that He lovingly gave them forgiveness and everlasting life!

        It is logical for you to acknowledge that if God can enable you, a professing believer, to have a free choice in accepting or rejecting His will, then in His omnipotence He certainly can enable an unbeliever to have a free choice in accepting or rejecting the gospel. It is only the false harmful doctrine that God before creation only chose a few to be saved, and ordained everlasting destruction for most of humanity, that requires a limit to His sovereignty to only enable those few to have such a choice.

        Please forgive them Lord for twisting your truth!

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      6. brianwagner writes, ““Enough” to be able to make a decision for the truth, as you know Rhutchin from your experience as a professing believer, does not mean that you cannot still resist making that decision for the truth….If you can be enabled as a professing believer to decide for or against the truth, an unbeliever can certainly be enabled by God to decide for the truth and yet still choose to resist accepting it!”

        We are dealing with a choice that is not difficult to make – eternal life vs eternal death. A person can be “enabled” to decide for eternal life or eternal death but the final decision is a no-brainer – eternal life. This is especially so if God has given the person “enough enlightenment and conviction the ability and opportunity to call upon God.” That a person is still enabled to choose eternal death suggests nothing as truth prevails and the person chooses eternal life. If a person were to choose eternal death, the reasonable conclusion is that God has NOT granted the person “enough” enlightenment and conviction and he is still blind to the truth.

        That a person is enabled to choose eternal life or eternal death does not mean that he sees these choices as equally desirable. They are not and nothing prevents the person understanding the difference (given “enough” enlightenment and conviction) and choosing consistent with that difference – the gulf between the two being so great that a person always chooses eternal life. You imagine the ridiculous to conclude otherwise. I would accuse you of twisting the truth except that your thinking on this is delusional and far from truth – thereby giving you nothing to twist. Given the philosophy you express here, I am not surprised that you have problems with omniscience and sovereignty also.

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  5. Brother Brian (and Leighton),

    I appreciate the response (both in style and tone).

    In my studies, I have found the concept of “prevenient grace” rooted in Catholicism, starting with Augustine. Prevenient grace was conceived as a solution for TD/TI. So, yes, if someone adheres to TD/TI then it naturally follows to embrace prevenient grace. One (PG) is the solution for the other (TD/TI).

    What I find odd is that apparently there are leaders within the SBC that say they reject TD/TI, but then embrace prevenient grace. Doesn’t make sense.

    Grace, as I see it in scripture, is making salvation obtainable by faith instead of by works. The grace of God that appears to all men (Titus 2:11) was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Everything that God requires of us was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

    Both Calvinists and Arminians have asked me “if you believe that man has the natural ability to believe then why does he need grace?” My response… “if it wasn’t for the grace of God man would have to earn salvation, which nobody can do.” It is by faith that it might be according to grace (Romans 4:16).

    If TD/TI is true, then man not only has an excuse, he has a valid reason.

    If TD/TI is true, then replacing the law of works with the law of faith changed nothing. It would be replacing the impossible with the equally impossible. However, I believe God replaced what no man can do (the law of works) with what every man can do (the law of faith).

    Also, we have to ask “is the cross sufficient to save the lost sinner or is another ‘work’ required?” If one holds to TD/TI then the cross isn’t sufficient and another work is required before a man can believe and be saved. Both Calvinists and Arminians confirm this.

    Another point. If man’s depravity is overcomed (which is what Arminians say), in other words, man’s natural rebellion against God is removed, then why do most men continue to rebel and reject the offer of salvation? It wasn’t because of their depravity because that issue has already been addressed. Now while the Calvinist answer might make sense (regeneration precedes faith), it isn’t biblical so we can throw that one out. But the Arminian solution for TD/TI is just, for the lack of a better word, goofy.

    Since I reject TD/TI, I am not forced to find a solution for it.

    God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Philip for your kind words and for presenting your view in some detail. If you do not mind, I think it may be good to define further what each of us means by TD/TI. I am guessing that you and I both believe everyone is born with a sin nature, inclined toward sin with nothing in man’s nature that would incline him to seek salvation without God taking the initiative of grace to get him to start his search. This is what I believe is total depravity and confirmed by verses such as Romans 11:32. Could agree with that definition of TD/TI?

      I think where we may disagree is in two areas, 1) whether there is enough ability in man’s nature to respond positively to God’s enlightenment, conviction and drawing (John 1:9, 16:7-8, 12:32) which He gives to every man, and 2) whether that “prevenient” grace (prevenient because it is before the salvation’s moment of regeneration) is passive and impersonal or must be active and personal.

      What I mean by passive and impersonal is that God has already put enough information out there (grace) in creation, conscience, Scriptures, believers, etc., that anyone coming in contact with this information is able to respond actively to it and begin their own personal search for salvation. What I mean by active and personal is that God uses that same information at specific moments in an individual’s life and that they only have those moments in which to decide for salvation. I believe “ears to hear” are needed, plus that the personal hardening of many needs to be overcome, bringing them to a point of repentance (2Pet 3:9), therefore I believe God’s active and personal grace is needed and is only given at special moments. I also believe that it is because of their rejection of these special “calls” to salvation that is the real reason they will be “without excuse.”

      I have no problem believing man is able to respond to God’s passive and impersonal grace, and can even benefit from it, drawing closer to a gospel understanding. But I still believe that the special moment of conviction when he really “hears” the gospel in his spirit is still necessary. “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart” (Heb 3:7-8). If you do not agree with this, what verses do you use and how do you respond to the ones I pointed to?

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      1. brianwagner writes, “… I believe “ears to hear” are needed, plus that the personal hardening of many needs to be overcome, bringing them to a point of repentance (2Pet 3:9), therefore I believe God’s active and personal grace is needed…I still believe that the special moment of conviction when he really “hears” the gospel in his spirit is still necessary.”

        This is the TD/TI position because none has the ability to come to salvation absent “God’s active and personal grace.” The issue, then, is whether God’s grace is resistible. Some find the preaching of the gospel irresistible and they come to salvation while others find the preaching of the gospel resistible as it seems foolishness to them. The difference between the two is found only in “God’s active and personal grace” which is the source of one’s ability to respond positively to the gospel Thus, we can trace a person’s reaction to the gospel back to “God’s active and personal grace” making God the determiner of who “really ‘hears’ the gospel in his spirit’ and is saved and who does not and is not saved.

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      2. For Calvinism to be true, we are either puppets with our wills changed against our will, or the Scriptures are lying when it says we are responsible for resisting the truth, since we could do nothing else but resist from our birth until our death, and God is portrayed as a “monster” that wishes to display His wrath more than HIs mercy! Lord please destroy the effects of such false teaching!

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      3. Brian (and Leighton),

        For further clarification, I believe depravity is defined as man not being able to earn his right standing before God. Lost man cannot keep the law and reconcile himself with his Creator. However, I do believe lost man can respond favorably to God thru the revelation of his spoken word. God draws (John 6:44) because man is draw-able. God teaches (John 6:45), because man is teach-able. The Spirit convicts (John 16:8), because man is convict-able.

        A far cry from TI.

        Now can man believe “on his own” without any divine assistance? No.

        Romans 10:17…
        “So then faith cometh (how?) by hearing, and hearing by (what?) the word of God.”

        The seed, or the word of God, must first be planted in the hearts of man (Luke 8:11-15, Acts 16:14, James 1:21) before he can come to faith in Christ, but this planting of the seed does not overcome or remove man’s depravity, at least I don’t see it in the cases of Cornelius, Lydia and Sergio Paulus.

        Now can man believe “on his own” once equipped with the word of God? Yes, but not because the depraved sinful nature has been overcomed/removed/diminished or whatever.

        Paul writes to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15)….
        “…and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

        Are the Spirit-breathed Scriptures, the very words of God, able to make one wise regarding salvation, or is something else needed?

        Both the Calvinist and the Arminian would insist that something else is needed, because without prevenient grace, fallen man is incapable of understanding God’s revelation of Himself thru His word.

        God bless, brother(s).

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      4. brianwagner writes, “For Calvinism to be true, we are either puppets with our wills changed against our will,…”

        Calvinism freely admits that God must change a person’s will – which is enemy to God – in order to bring a person to salvation. People are Totally Depraved and have no ability to any inclination to salvation – they are slaves to sin with their natures fully submissive to sin.

        Thus, as you have already stated, “… I believe “ears to hear” are needed, plus that the personal hardening of many needs to be overcome, bringing them to a point of repentance (2Pet 3:9), therefore I believe God’s active and personal grace is needed…” God’s active and personal grace are necessary to bring a person to salvation – requiring that God confront the person’s will and change that will. This is what God did to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.

        You have conceded that which you now call a false teaching. You have given up omniscience and sovereignty. You must also give up the idea of the total inability of a person to come to salvation – i.e., the belief that God’s active and personal grace is needed.

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      5. phillip writes, “Are the Spirit-breathed Scriptures, the very words of God, able to make one wise regarding salvation, or is something else needed?”

        This is the key question. Do the Scriptures make a person “wise regarding salvation”? If a person is “wise” regarding salvation, that person should come to salvation; otherwise he is not “wise.” It is the preaching of the Scriptures that is the source of “hearing” and this “hearing” the source of faith which then expresses itself in obedience to God.

        The question is why all who hear the gospel preached do not express faith in God. The Calvinists concluded that something else must be going on to explain why only some respond to the gospel and others do not. You understand this as you sate, “Both the Calvinist and the Arminian would insist that something else is needed, because without prevenient grace, fallen man is incapable of understanding God’s revelation of Himself thru His word.”

        If the Calvinist/Arminian conclusion is to be rejected, what do you see as an alternative explanation for some coming to salvation consequent to the preaching of the gospel and some not? No one else has come up with a viable alternative; maybe you will be the first.

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      6. Hi Philip… I was looking through the site for conversations that I may have missed responding to! 🙂 I know we are in the same camp, trying to counter the real harm being done by Calvinism’s diminishing of believer’s biblical motivation to love and prayer for all the lost. But if you don’t mind, let me ask for clarification on your view of TI, or your rejection of it.

        You said – “Now can man believe ‘on his own’ once equipped with the word of God? Yes, but not because the depraved sinful nature has been overcomed/removed/diminished or whatever.” I think this statement caught my attention the most, as it seems to be inconsistent, and I know you do not want to present truth in an inconsistent way. How does the idea of “equipped” not imply at least that the “sinful nature has been” affected positively in some way towards salvation that it was unable to move towards without it?

        Perhaps we are talking about the difference between innate inability and innate ability, plus the difference between inability based on no divine opportunity and ability based on divine opportunity. I think you might believe in some innate inability caused by our inheritance from Adam’s soul to ours, like the inability to start our own search for salvation without God first taking an active initiative to present opportunities to get us to start our seeking. And I think you believe that man’s nature from Adam is able to respond positively or negatively to each of those initiatives, at least in its original nature, without taking into account self-hardening or divine hardening. If this is so, then I agree with you.

        So what if man uses his innate ability to reject God’s initiatives, and self-hardens? Is he able to remove that self-hardening based on previous personal recollections of God’s initiatives, or must God actively bring those recollections or bring new gracious input to his mind (“open His heart” if you will)? And, of course, I believe you would agree that if God hardens him, he is no longer able to respond positively to opportunities of God’s grace that may given to others in his presence (Heb 3:7-8).

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  6. Brian (and Leighton),

    First, let me apologize for the length of this post.

    “I am guessing that you and I both believe everyone is born with a sin nature inclined toward sin…”

    Agreed.

    “…with nothing in man’s nature that would incline him to seek salvation without God taking the initiative of grace to get him to start his search.”

    Honestly, not so sure.

    As far as Romans 11:32….
    “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”

    Once again, this verse relates to the righteous requirements that God demands and says nothing about the ability to respond to God.

    Romans 3:20….
    “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

    Two things happened to Adam when he sinned. First, he died spiritually before God (Genesis2:17), not in the Calvinistic sense, but the relationship between God and man was somehow severed and in need of repair. But something else happened to Adam and it was something he took with him outside the garden and that is the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:22). I believe this knowledge was also passed down to Adam’s prosperity. I believe the Spirit, thru the word, is able to convict each person of their sin (Hebrews 4:12) because he already knows he is a guilty sinner (John 3:19-20).

    So do I believe in depravity? Of course, because the bible teaches it and because I see it in everyday life. But do I believe in the Augustinian (who formulated it) concept of TD/TI? No. I don’t see it in scripture and I certainly don’t see it in the case of Adam. Even after Adam sinned (and died spiritually) what did he do? He hid from God (Genesis 3:8). Why? Because he was afraid (Genesis 3:10). Why would he be afraid? Because of this new found knowledge he experienced both shame and guilt. He knew and understood he sinned against the Creator.

    You said…. “I believe…….the personal hardening of many needs to be overcome, bringing them to a point of repentance (2Pet 3:9), therefore I believe God’s active and personal grace is needed and is only given at special moments.”

    Which brings me back to my original question. If every person’s rebellion against God (hardening) is overcomed (removed) then why do most continue to rebel? Why does this overcoming of TD/TI benefit some and not all? Now Calvinists maintain we are new creatures in Christ with a divine nature that will come to faith. Again, not biblical, so we can discard that one. But the Arminian believes we have been “released from the bondage of sin” thus enabling us to make a newly freed will choice. Again, doesn’t make sense, because if we are no longer slaves to sin, why do we sin by rejecting Christ? Goofy.

    Now here’s the verse that causes both Calvinists and Arminians do to hermitical gymnastics to explain.

    Acts 13:7….
    Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.

    Here is an actual biblical example of a depraved, lost sinner who DESIRED or WANTED to hear the word of God. This “desire” is an impossibility for those adhering to TD/TI and both Calvinists and Arminians have had to jump thru hoops to explain it away.

    Cornelius (Acts 10:1) and Lydia (Acts 16:4) are just two more examples of depraved, lost sinners who were living in a loving relationship with God before hearing the message.

    I appreciate the interaction, brother(s).

    Blessings.

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    1. I appreciate the interaction also, Philip. It helps sharpen my thinking a lot. I also appreciate you teachable spirit and admission that you do not know if God must take the initiative for someone to start their search.

      As far as Rom. 11:32, do you think being “committed…to disobedience” by God might mean more than just guilty before Him?

      Also, using historical illustrations from Scripture (Adam, Sergius, Cornelius, and Lydia) can not easily be used to explain what may or may not be happening in the spirit world or in an individual’s spirit. God was certainly actively, personally, and graciously confronting Adam, and drawing Cornelius. And I think the phrase “opened her heart” (Lydia) is significant.

      Would Lydia have been able to resist Paul’s message after God opened her heart? I think so, but I cannot prove it from this passage. But it is another example of God actively and personally being involved, this time while Paul is preaching. And it says “opened” instead of “saved” or “regenerated”, which seems to point to a necessary prevenient gracious act. Could she have heard Paul’s message and not have her heart opened? I think so.

      Let me make a comment also about when you said – “…if we are no longer slaves to sin, why do we sin by rejecting Christ? Goofy.” I realize this is your quote of the Arminian view of prevenient grace. It sounds like they are using salvation language, because being freed from sin’s penalty and dominion is true at the moment of regeneration. But they may just mean the bondage caused by sin that keeps one from seeking or responding freely to the gospel. The terminology is unfortunate, and indeed “goofy” if they mean truly “no longer slaves to sin” in the sense of salvation. 🙂

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      1. Brian,

        Again, thanks for the gracious response.

        The more I study the more I realize how much I don’t know. I have no doubt when we get to the other side of glory, we will come to realize we didn’t know anything. However, the little we do get we have to take by faith.

        Also, please see my “further clarification” above. I seemed to have posted it higher than intended.

        Grace.

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      2. Brother Brian,

        I address some of what you ask here in my “further clarification” above, but I want to touch on something you wrote here.

        “…using historical illustrations from Scripture (Adam, Sergius, Cornelius, and Lydia) cannot easily be used to explain what may or may not be happening in the spirit world or in an individual’s spirit.”

        Now we want to be careful here, because this is precisely what the Calvinist means when he speaks of God working “behind the scenes”. Since there is no biblical evidence to support their stance of “regeneration precedes faith”, they suggest God is doing just that to bring His Elect to faith. Now our Arminian brothers applaud when this is pointed out, but they, unfortunately, are guilty of the same when they suggest that the sinner was “released from the bondage of sin”.

        My stance is if our interpretation of certain verses/texts is accurate, then we should be able to provide actual, biblical examples to support it. Scripture should interpret scripture.

        As far as the biblical examples of Cornelius, Lydia, and Sergio Paulus (and others) we should just let the scriptures speak and take the verses for what they say.

        Sergio Paulus desired to hear the word of God.

        ‘Nuff said.

        God bless.

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  7. I did not notice till now that this topic is being discussed both here and at SBC today. Brian I appreciate your comments because basically you hold the same views as I do. That being said I see you are interacting with Phillip. Phillip for whatever reason has intense dislike of both calvinist and Arminian views on depravity. Note he claims to hold to depravity but has a mistaken definition of it (Brian yours in contrast is a better more accurate definition, you both gave your definitions in this thread). He also misrepresents the meaning of prevenient grace. It simply means a grace that goes before; so Arminians and others mean by it that God must take the iniative in giving grace to a person to enable but not necessitate a faith response. I refer to it as the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit before conversion (hence prevenient) comes and convicts the sinner, shows them their condtion (i.e. separated from God by their sin; spiritually dead, incapable of saving themselves) and reveals Christ to them (that he is the way of salvation, that they must trust in his work on the cross rather than their own efforts, etc.) Brian I agree with you that God gives everyone at least an opportunity to be saved in their lifetimes: primarily based upon his stated desire of everyone being saved and his character. I have had numerous interactions in the past with Phillip and he misrepresents Arminians, depravity and prevenient grace so he is not a reliable source. I appreciate his opposition to calvinism, but his views on depravity are mistaken. Everyone who is biblical holds to some conception of depravity. Calvinists are mistaken in their thinking that depravity is only overcome by regeneration. Non-calvinists including Arminians, Traditionalists, etc hold various conceptions of depravity. Sin has effected all aspects of human beings. We cannot come to Christ on our own without prevenient gace, we do not take the iniative in seeking after God. Brian I appreciate your comments here and invite you to join the discussion of this topic over at SBC today. I could use your support over there.
    Robert

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate Philip’s attempt to work through the Scriptures in these matters, and it appears he is open to consider how God’s grace works in drawing people to their moment of repentance. I would love to join the discussion at SBC today. Is that online? I probably do not have the time or money for a private jet to get me there from my home in VA! 🙂

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      1. Brian,

        You said regarding Phillip that “it appears that he is open to consider how God’s grace works”. Not from my observations over at SBC where for years he has been presenting his idiosyncratic (i.e. unique to him not held by others) views on preconversion/prevenient grace. He repeatedly misrepresents the views of Arminians regarding their views on depravity and prevenient grace. At one time he was calling me a “two point calvinist” because I don’t believe you can lose your salvation (similar to the “P” in the calvinistic acronym TULIP) and I hold to a conception of depravity (similar to the “T” in TULIP) though my conception is not like the calvinistic conception of depravity. I am no calvinist by views on perseverance and depravity are those held by most Baptists.

        As an example of his idiosyncratic views concider the definition of depravity that he presented earlier in this thread: “I believe depravity is defined as man not being able to earn his right standing before God.” This is not how others, whether they be calvinists, Arminians Traditionalists, other non-calvinists, define depravity. Depravity is concerned with sin and its effects on human persons. It is called “total” to signify that the effects of sin involve every aspect of man. It has to do with the effects of sin upon us. Note that Phillip’s definition says nothing about sin or the effects of sin, but focuces on people’s inability to “earn a right standing before God.”

        SBC TODAY has a blog site and it is free, just do a search for SBC TODAY and that will bring it righ up. I believe you would enjoy the blog articles there and would make positive contributions there. Leighton Flowers’ article on those who have never heard is posted there and being discussed there.

        One last thing, the poster who goes by the name “rhutchin” is a calvinist who posts all over the web. He posts all over the web presenting his calvinistic views (and its a free country so there is nothing wrong in that and he has the right to do so): the problem is that even when he is corrected via scripture he never stops making the same points over and over and engaging in the same misrepresentations (e.g he argues that non-calvinistic views lead to universalism the false idea that everyone will be saved; claiming that Jesus died for the whole world is not universalism). So you need to be careful in your interactions with him as you will end up going around and around in circles, with him twisting your views and mispresenting your views and causing unnecessary confusion.

        Leighton it would be nice if you also posted at SBC today as your comments generated a vigorous discussion and it would be helpful to receive some clarifications from you regarding your views of those who never hear the gospel of Jesus.

        Robert

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      2. Thank you Robert for giving me some background from your interactions with Phillip and your knowledge of Rhutchin. As I think you might agree, interacting by blog postings, though they call it “social media” is not very social at times, and oft times not very spiritual or helpful to those who seem unteachable in most of their responses. I try to prayerfully consider what may help those who seem unteachable when I write, for I am thinking that their passion to be obstinate comes from an unresolved conflict that they are having with the Lord. I know that such is usually the case when I am obstinate!

        If Phillip is attempting a “me against everyone else” position, he probably just needs a good friend who will take the needed time and opportunity to discover the best way to love him and help him develop his spiritual gift. His view of depravity does not seem that harmful, like the Calvinist one is, because Phillip appears to still believe that God is working to give everyone an opportunity for salvation.

        I have interacted a lot with Rhutchin. If you go through the various postings on this site, you will see that. I have certainly been given a heart of compassion for him from the Lord, in spite of the frustration that his responses cause. I know that God will graciously help anyone who reads his and my conversation to discern which responses rely on the clear teachings of Scriptures.

        Thank you for pointing me to the SBC TODAY site. I will check it out. But I try to limit myself to only a couple sites for regular involvement. So for now, this is the one… but it may have run it course. We’ll see. Blessing, my Brother! What a Wonderful Savior is Jesus! Brian

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  8. This may be slightly off topic, but I just wanted to know people’s thoughts.

    I think it may be a mistake for Calvinists and Arminians to assume God’s foreknowing at Romans 8:29 is relative to the beginning of creation rather than to the end of the ages. Paul may be saying God foreknew (i.e. entered into an intimate relationship with) us, not prior to creating the world, but during our lifetimes (prior to the judgment).

    We know God choose and predestined us (in Christ) before the foundation of the world, to be conformed to His image (Eph 1:4; Rom 8:23). So, people might also assume He has “foreknown” us (in an intimate sense) before the foundation of the world. But, I don’t think that makes sense. Rather, I think the Father choose and was intimate with CHRIST before the foundation of the world, and He decided that “whosoever” will be IN CHRIST will eventually be conformed to His image.

    It’s up to us to decide whether or not we’ll be IN CHRIST (and therefore counted as “chosen”). But, once we get IN CHRIST, God is able to KNOW us intimately, through Christ. This intimate relationship is formed PRIOR TO (hence the term “foreknew”) the glorious destiny God prepared before the foundation of the world for all who would love Him.

    I also think it’s a mistake to assume Paul intended Romans 8:29-30 to be an “unbreakable golden chain” of ordo salutis. What if Paul is simply listing various attributes of believers? Things that we can put our hope and trust in as we struggle through this life?

    If you read the whole chapter, Romans 8 is a message of hope for believers suffering persecution, struggling with sin, etc. Paul says we have a future ahead that doesn’t compare to our present difficulties. He reminds us that God works all things to the good for those who LOVE Him and who are “called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Now, I searched my NASB for “call, purpose” and found that this phrase is almost always used to describe sanctification (1 Thes 4:7; 2 Tim 1:9, 1 Pet 2:21).

    So, I think at Rom 8:28-30 Paul is giving us a message of hope (not some technical detailing of the order of salvation). He’s simply saying that, no matter what our sufferings in this life, we can rest assured of God’s promises and faithfulness: (1) Our Creator has known us, intimately, through Christ, (2) He has destined us to be conformed to the image of Christ, with all the benefits thereof, (3) He has a calling and purpose for each of us, (4) He has justified us by the blood of Christ, and (5) He has glorified us in Christ.

    Does that make sense? I can see it so clearly in my mind, but I’m finding it hard to explain, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Makes sense Amyra, but since Paul has not clarified the meaning of foreknowledge in this passage, it would be best to keep our dogmatism to just what Paul was clearly trying to do in this context! I think all would agree that Paul was trying to encourage those who love God and are called according to His purpose to endure hardship as sheep led to the slaughter knowing God loves them and will finish His good work in and through them.

      It is easy to know if you love God, and it would be easy to know if you are called according to His purpose, by asking God to let you check the Lamb’s Book of Life to see if your name has been added! 🙂 I am serious about the first thing you should do. Find out if you love God by how well you are doing in keeping His commandments for you. But instead of the second thing I suggested, since I do not know of anyone who has gotten to look into the Book of Life, keep trusting only in the Lord Jesus to save you from your sins, for that is all He is calling you to do for your salvation.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “…since Paul has not clarified the meaning of foreknowledge in this passage, it would be best to keep our dogmatism to just what Paul was clearly trying to do in this context!”

        Matthew records that Jesus said of the reprobate, “I never knew you.” We can contrast that with God’s elect whom Paul says God foreknew. At the least, it appears that more is intended than just a factual knowledge of either, so a more intimate relationship is in view – one God has with His elect but not with the reprobate.

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      2. Praise God that He demonstrated His love for the whole world by sending His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world! (1John 2:2) He even paid for the redemption of the ones who lead people astray by twisting Scripture’s teaching about His sovereignty, His omniscience, His mercy, His freedom, His justice, and His love (2Pet 2:1). Those false teachers unless they truly repent will never benefit from His purchase for their sins because they deny Him, even though they were once enlightened and convicted (John 1:9, 16:7-8, Heb 6:4-6)

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    2. “I also think it’s a mistake to assume Paul intended Romans 8:29-30 to be an “unbreakable golden chain” of ordo salutis. What if Paul is simply listing various attributes of believers?”

      Let’s compare what you say to that which we read in Romans 8–

      29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
      30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
      31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

      The verses list specific actions by God with regard to those He foreknew. Of those God foreknew, God says He predestined them to be conformed to Christ. Of those God so predestined, He called; of those God called, He justified; of those God justified, He glorified. Now, we have only to identify those whom God foreknew. Then, we will know those whom God then predestined, then called, then justified, then glorified. Thus, Paul is doing much more than listing various attributes of believers; Paul lists specific actions by God with regard to those He foreknew. “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us (His elect), who can be against us?”

      As you seem to have identified “those whom God foreknew” to be believers (i.e., God’s elect), the issue is when God knows them. Paul does not explain this in Romans 8.

      In Romans 5, Paul writes, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Thus, God foreknew His elect when they were still sinners and thus before they had heard the gospel preached and had expressed faith in Christ. This means that God’s “foreknowing” of His elect was not based on anything in them or anything done by them – the important point being that He knew them when they were still sinners and before they had made any decision regarding Christ.

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      1. RHutchin, you’re the one who added the word “then.” Paul said “also,” and “also,” and “also” (in other words, the people who God foreknew are “also” the people who are predestined, etc., etc.. I understand why you see it the way you do. But there’s nothing in the text that requires me to accept your interpretation. God bless!

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      2. I don’t see that “then” or “also” makes a difference. The point is that Paul is describing actions that God performs – God calls, God justifies, God glorifies – and God acts on the same group of people throughout. Those that God foreknew are those that God glorified. Do you really see Paul not saying this? This would be in addition to what would then be attributes of believers – they are called by God, justified by God, glorified by God.

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  9. Praise God that He demonstrated His love for the whole world by sending His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world! (1John 2:2) He even paid for the redemption of the ones who lead people astray by twisting Scripture’s teaching about His sovereignty, His omniscience, His mercy, His freedom, His justice, and His love (2Pet 2:1). Those false teachers unless they truly repent will never benefit from His purchase for their sins because they deny Him, even though they were once enlightened and convicted (John 1:9, 16:7-8, Heb 6:4-6)

    Like

    1. brianwagner writes, “Those false teachers unless they truly repent will never benefit from His purchase for their sins because they deny Him, even though they were once enlightened and convicted (John 1:9, 16:7-8, Heb 6:4-6)”

      So, if Christ did purchase their sins, then what sin did they then commit that could deny them Christ’s benefit? Or did you mean to say, “…His purchase for most of their sins…”?

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  10. RHutchin

    You wrote: “I don’t see that “then” or “also” makes a difference.”

    That’s because you’re approaching this text with Calvinist presuppositions. “Then” implies a sequential order of events (i.e. “chain”). “Also” implies no such thing; that’s the difference. And that’s why I say it’s a mistake to ASSUME this is some “chain” of ordo salutis. The text doesn’t say it, neither does the grammar require it.

    You wrote: “The point is that Paul is describing actions that God performs.”

    WHY is he describing what God does? Because he wants to teach us the precise mechanics and order of “salvific events”? LOL! Or because he’s trying to give struggling Christians HOPE that the God who loves them (and whom they also LOVE) will work all things out to their good? (hint: drop your Calvinist presuppositions, re-read the chapter, and keep verse 28 in mind as you read verses 29-30).

    You wrote: “God calls, God justifies, God glorifies – and God acts on the same group of people throughout.”

    And? Remember what I said about “called” in this context. Does the fact that God called Christians into service (i.e. sanctification) change the fact that He has also called ALL men to repentance? No it doesn’t.

    You wrote: “Those that God foreknew are those that God glorified. Do you really see Paul not saying this?”

    You mean “foreknew” in the sense of entering into an intimate relationship with them, yeah? As Bro. Wagner and I have already discussed, I don’t believe the text requires an understanding that God was in an intimate relationship with individual Christians before they even existed. I believe it’s possible the “foreknowing” is relative to the end of the ages, not the foundation of the world. In other words, God knows all Christians intimately, through Christ (as they get IN CHRIST), prior to the time of the end (hence the term “foreknew”). It’s just like He “foreknew” Israel (Rom 11:2) in the sense that He was in an intimate relationship with them for centuries before He hardened them in their willful rebellion.

    You wrote: “This would be in addition to what would then be attributes of believers – they are called by God, justified by God, glorified by God.”

    Like I said, you’re approaching the text with certain presuppositions: (1) That God “foreknew” each individual before the foundation of the earth, which the text doesn’t say; and (2) Paul intended this passage to be understood as a “golden chain” of ordo salutis. But, again, the text itself does not require such an interpretation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “…I say it’s a mistake to ASSUME this is some “chain” of ordo salutis. The text doesn’t say it, neither does the grammar require it.”

      A literal translation of the Greek reads, “..but whom he foreodained, these he called, and whom he called, these he justified but whom he justified, these he glorified.” My conclusion is that the grammar requires the progression from one action to the other. Rather than state your opinion, how about giving us your analysis of the Greek text.

      “(1) That God “foreknew” each individual before the foundation of the earth, which the text doesn’t say;…”

      The text says that God “foreknew” them before He called them. The issue is how much before. If God is omniscient, then He foreknew them before the foundation of the world. If your presupposition is to deny that God is omniscient, say so.

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  11. RHutchin

    You wrote: “A literal translation of the Greek reads ‘..but whom he foreordained, these he called, and whom he called, these he justified but whom he justified, these he glorified.’ My conclusion is that the grammar requires the progression from one action to the other. Rather than state your opinion, how about giving us your analysis of the Greek text.”

    I don’t think an “analysis of the Greek” is really necessary. In fact, I think your demanding an “analysis of the Greek” is nothing more than a haughty, pretentious, and yet feeble attempt to win the argument by painting yourself as some kind of expert on linguistics (and me as ignorant by comparison). Nice try, but I don’t buy it : )

    Besides, your “conclusion” (i.e. opinion) that this must be a “progression” isn’t based on an “analysis” of the Greek, anyway. It’s based on the fact that he says “whom He foreordained” right before he says “these He called…” It’s an argument based on SYNTAX, not Greek linguistics, so please cut the crap, lol 😛

    And, I’ve already addressed this. Paul didn’t say “FIRST He foreordained and THEN He called…” He simply said “those whom He foreordained, these He called.” You have to insist this is a progression because your systematic requires it, but I don’t have that problem, do I? So I can just accept what Paul says at face value.

    ———————————

    I also think you might be conflating the issues of predestination and foreknowledge. I believe God predestined (i.e. determined, decided), before the foundation of the world, that whosoever will get IN CHRIST will ultimately be conformed to His image. And I believe it’s up to us to decide whether or not we’ll be one of those “whosoevers.”

    But, just because that “predestining” came before the foundation of the world doesn’t mean the “foreknowing” came before the foundation of the world. It’s possible that God has “foreknown” us intimately, IN CHRIST, PRIOR TO the time of the end, in the same way He intimately foreknew the nation of Israel PRIOR TO hardening them (Rom 11:2). And that brings us to your second point…

    ———————————

    You wrote: “The text says that God “foreknew” them before He called them. The issue is how much before. If God is omniscient, then He foreknew them before the foundation of the world. If your presupposition is to deny that God is omniscient, say so.”

    If we’re talking about “foreknowing” in the sense of having foreknowledge of our existence, then of course that would be before the foundation of the world; this goes without saying. But, if we’re talking about “foreknowing” in the sense of entering into an INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP, I don’t believe God was in an INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP with individual Christians before He created them. To me that makes no sense.

    ———————————

    As for your attempt to label me an open theist, I only wonder if Calvinists ever get as bored hurling these senseless accusations as we do hearing them.

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    1. Amyra,
      I want to make a couple of comments about your suggested interpretations of Romans 8. First of all, what does it have to do with the issue of the fate of those who never hear the gospel? I ask that because I want to know what connection you see between these two topics. Second, in your initial post you spoke of how perhaps both Calvinists and Arminians may be mistaken regarding the meaning of foreknowledge in Romans 8. I believe you are definitely correct that no calvinist takes your position. However, you may be mistaken regarding Arminains as I know some that have taken a very similar position as you have taken (including your appeal to corporate election). I think a strenght of your suggested alternative is that the context, Romans 8 is Paul talking about the suffering of believers and how all things work together for good for believers. So Paul is not discussing unconditioal election and that is not his subject in that chapter. Paul also says regarding those who are “foreknown” that they are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. As N. T. Wright observes in his commentary on Romans, that could be referring to believers being like Jesus in character (so it would be pointing to sanctification, we are to be Christ -like in character) or being like Jesus in his resurrection body (future glorification of believers). Either way it is not talking about election to salvation or some supposed decrees that God made in eternity that some would be saved and others damned. Calvinists tend to read in their theology into Romans 8 causing some mistakes and misinterpretations. I suggest you look at some commentaries on Romans to investigate your view further.

      Incidentally did you come up with this on your own or did you hear it or glean it from someone else? Just curious to see your source.

      Lastly, I do not see any evidence that you are either an open theist (you even gave a standard understanding of foreknowledge) and even more I see no evidence of you being an atheist. You appear to be a believer who has an alternative understanding of Romans 8 and you merely wanted to discuss it with other believers in a rational, civil and biblical way. Unfortunately some behaving inappropriately feel the need to engage in unjustified personal attacks. As I have said in other contexts and will say here, I suggest that we ignore these type of people. They are not worth your time instead choose to interact with others who also want to discuss things in a rational, civil and biblical manner.

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  12. Brother Brian (Leighton),

    I don’t even know where to start, but I feel I need to say something.

    Brian, you wrote to Robert…

    “As I think you might agree, interacting by blog postings, though they call it ‘social media’ is not very social at times, and oft times not very spiritual or helpful to those who seem unteachable in most of their responses.”

    Brian (Leighton), little do you know just how ironic that statement is, especially considering to whom it was written. Allow me to share some background concerning Robert.

    Robert once wrote to Rhutchin at SBC Today…. “…if it was up to me you would have been banned long ago…”

    Sadly, and kind of hilariously, it was Robert who was banned (for displaying characteristics unbecoming of anyone professing to be a Christian) even if temporarily.

    Robert just recently came out of exile over at SBC Today. He was banned for the entire month of February (all comments withheld) for being rude, inconsiderate, un-gracious, un-loving, and un-christian with many of the other commenters there who just happen to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. He basically cannot interact with our Calvinist Brothers (or anyone who disagrees with him) because he cannot conjure up the grace to do so. Instead he is forced to “ignore them”. Here are a couple of quotes from Robert to support this.

    “ignore the ideologues who rant and ridicule….”

    “In contrast, if someone starts the interaction by mocking beliefs, ridiculing them and declaring them to be an illusion…..well, then my choice is to ignore them and their comments and their questions.”

    If only we all could be so lucky.

    Now compare that with what he wrote to you regarding me.

    “Not from my observations over at SBC where for years he has been presenting his idiosyncratic (i.e. unique to him not held by others) views on preconversion/prevenient grace.”

    Unedifying and disgraceful.

    Let me say it is not my intent, nor has it ever been, to be disagreeable with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not opposed to learning from others who have been graciously granted the gift of teaching.

    My view of depravity is not “idiosyncratic” as I have found many to hold to the same understanding that I do. In fact, I have found it to be quite common within the SBC. Even some Pastors share this same view. Also notice my comment posted on March 28 at 9:39pm which brother Leighton “liked”.

    I suspect Robert is really a Closet Arminian. I have asked him a couple of times if he is a member of the SEA (Society of Evangelical Arminians), an honest and harmless question, and he refused to answer (which, ironically, still answers the question). Why? Perhaps you (or brother Leighton) can ask him this question and he will answer it for you.

    His comments are laced with chicanery and venom. For him to troll over to this website just to express his opinions (and that is all it is) is disgraceful. Some of his comments are nothing short of arrogant and audacious. Robert sees himself as some kind of guardian angel pa-trolling the blog-spheres, but his true goal is to create discourse and division between other brothers in Christ all in the name of Arminianism. Actually, Robert and Rhutchin are just two sides of the same coin, while the former is just more long-winded (considerably more).

    All I ask Brian (and Leighton) is to just discern Robert’s comments in validity, language and tone, carefully. Sadly, instead of looking for the problem from within, he is hell-bent on seeking revenge on anyone whom he might suspect of getting him exiled from SBC Today.

    I am sorry I had to share the above with you (and brother Leighton), but I felt it necessary. Robert has a habit of “butting in” to others’ conservations in a harmful, destructive, and unedifying manner (by evidence of his comments above). Just another reason he was banned from SBC Today.

    Brother Brian, all that said, I have greatly appreciated your time and input and I hope we can continue to interact and learn from one another in a spirit of brotherly love.

    God bless you, brother(s).

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    1. Hi Phillip, Thank you for sharing some background concerning your interactions with Robert and Rhutchin. As I wrote to Robert, I would write the same to you. But if there was something that I said that personally that you feel was harsh towards you, please forgive me. I wrote with the assumption that you would be in the room, just as I am writing this with the assumption Robert and Rhutchin are “listening”. But I still know I can say hurtful and unhelpful things, not knowing my online acquaintances more personally.

      This is some of the problem with posting, when we really do not fellowship with each other in a local congregation of professing believers. But I believe we all should strive to be obedient to the commands of Rom 14:1 and 15:1-3 –

      Receive one who is weak in the faith, [but] not to disputes over doubtful things.

      We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please [his] neighbor for [his] good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

      Each of us naturally think that the other is a weaker brother… so our Christ-like acceptance is essential if we are to have any hope of building them up!

      If we begin to think that they may be unsaved or trapped in false doctrine by the evil-one to do his will, a similar command is given by Paul in 2Timothy 2:23-26 –

      But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and [that] they may come to their senses [and] [escape] the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to [do] his will.

      If I thought this site was dealing with foolish questions, I would not be posting here. I truly believe Calvinism’s false doctrine of a completed list of elect before creation not only misrepresents God’s character and His revelation in Scripture, but it harms the love and prayers He wants us, His servants, to have for all the lost. As this site begins focusing on less clear issues, like how or why God does things that He has not clearly revealed concerning His salvation, then we must continue in even more gracious conversation, making open concessions that Scriptures are not clear concerning the views we might lean towards accepting as true. Brian

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      1. Brother Brian,

        You have no reason to apologize to me. As I have already said, you have been nothing but gracious. I have enjoyed the discussion in the spirit in which it was being given and would like to see it continue. I see no reason why people can disagree without being disagreeable. Regardless of the forum we are all still brothers (and/or sisters) in Christ and should treat others as higher than ourselves. We should also remember we are playing in someone else’s backyard (in this case, brother Leighton’s) and we are his guests and should act accordingly.

        Grace.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Moderator,

    I want to ask you some questions and get some clarifications from you regarding posting at this blog site. You have my private email address. Please contact me offline, thank you.

    Robert

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  14. Robert

    Yes, this was off topic. It had been on my mind, about Romans 8:29-30. I’ve listened to all Prof. Flowers’ podcasts and have not heard him address the passage (maybe he did and I missed it). But I think it’s as important as any other Calvinist “proof text,” so I picked his latest blog article (where I figured people would still be talking) to ask the question.

    Thanks for the suggestion on looking at commentaries. I’m always afraid to look at them, because I don’t want to get confused by too many different uninspired opinions. But, Prof. Flowers always talks about A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis. Maybe they have a commentary that’s safe to read.

    As for your other question, I think it was Brian Abasciano, or somebody in the SEA (I’m not exactly sure), who wrote in an article somewhere that there’s no need to take Romans 8:29-30 as a chain of ordo salutis. But he didn’t elaborate further except to say that Paul is simply listing benefits that apply to believers (or something like that). And I started to think about it, and I looked back at the passage and realized he’s right. Nothing in that passage requires the Calvinist interpretation…or even the foresight-faith interpretation.

    It made me happy because that passage, with its seemingly Calvinistic implications, had been troubling me. I think the reason I was troubled was because I had accepted the Calvinist presuppositions about the purpose of the passage, the foreknowing, and possibly even the calling. It’s soooo EASY to buy into Calvinist presuppositions without even realizing it; they’re often so subtle!

    Anyway, I agree with you about not wasting my time. When I got called an “atheist,” I realized the conversation was over, lol.

    Thank you for your kind words. God bless! 🙂

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    1. Amyra,

      Your rationale for your interest in this passage makes perfect sense. Regarding commentaries I wouldn’t be too afraid of them. I view them as guides that help us better understand passages. The Bible alone is inerrant and infallible, but just as we profit from good teachers of the Bible we can profit from good commentaries. We need to be careful if a commentary has an unhelpful bias just as we need to be discerning with a teacher that has an unhelpful bias. Another thing that is helpful about good commnetaries is that you will see what the other side has to offer. For example I oppose calvinism and am persuaded it is a false theology. And yet I still have Thomas Schreiner and Douglas Moo’s commnetaries on Romans, they are probably the best commentaries on Romans by calvinists. If you want to properly consider a positon you want to know what its best proponents present. That way you avoid straw men and lesser and weaker representations of a position. Those things being said you still want to compare scritpure with scripture because that remains the best way to understand scripture.

      It probably was a member of SEA that wrote the article that got you thinking, and that is a good thing. I also know that Brian and some others there hold to corporate election as you do.

      You are also right about presuppositions. The calvinists presuppositions can seem to be true and are alluring and sometimes subtle. We need to be aware of our presuppositons as well as those held by others has they have a lot of impact upon how people interpret texts. One of the most important presuppositions is that texts ought to be interpreted in context When this is done in Romans 8 it is clear that Paul was not discussing decrees made in eternity as calvinists want to believe. A similar thing occurs in Romans 9 which is not a discussiion of unconditional election and reprobation but a discussiion of the history of election in the history of Israel.

      Calvinist trolls will often attack non-calvinists as open theists if you deny their understanding of foreknowledge or as semi-pelagian/pelagian if you deny their understanding of how we come to faith in Christ (i.e. you suggest that people freely choose to believe and also freely choose to reject, that people can and do reject the preconversion grace of God). In my own experience with internet trolls I will for the most part ignore them and encourage others to ignore them as well. They really are not postinig to engage in a rational, civil, and biblical discussion: they are posting in order to promote their ideology and defend their ideology no matter what that involves (including unwarranted personal attacks and misrepresentations of the views of others). I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with me, if they do so in the right way. I know that others will not always agree with me. I also know that on the essentials Christians agree. But trolls ignore all of that, they don’t care about agreement or civility (except to avoid being banned from blogs), and they don’t care if they engage in unjustified attacks of others as open theists (that is a real bogeman for calvinists trolls) or in this case as an atheist. I disagree with open theists as I believe they are mistaken on the issue of foreknowledge. But I would not attack them as atheists since they disagree with my view on foreknowledge. They may be mistaken but they also may hold the essentials of the faith and be in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus, which is what really matters. For these reasons and others I say ignore and avoid the trolls and don’t waste time on them. We are too limited in our time to be wasting time on these type people.

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      1. Robert, My advice is not to use the term “troll” on this site, or on any Christian site, where it could be associated with specific individuals. I do not think your use of that term will help encourage change in the believers that may be acting that way or help for those seeking Christ’s love and salvation for unbelievers that may be acting that way. Brian

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    2. Robert writes, “Calvinist trolls will often attack non-calvinists as open theists if you deny their understanding of foreknowledge or as semi-pelagian/pelagian…”

      The issue with Open Theism is omniscience. Calvinists say that God is omniscient even knowing all future events. Open Theists say that God is not omniscient as He does not know the future (or all future events) and especially not who will be saved. There is no special understanding of foreknowledge here. God has knowledge of all future events including an intimate knowledge of His elect and He had this knowledge when He created the world.

      The second issue is the source of God’s knowledge of the future. The Pelagian says that God must look into the future and learn what happens in order to know what happens. The Calvinist says that God knows the future without having to learn what happens. No one and nothing can teach God or give God knowledge He does not already have – even about future events.

      The problem for non-Calvinists is that an omniscient God makes anything other than the Calvinist system untenable. The Open Theists figured this out and knew that they had to deny that God is omniscient in order to avoid the Calvinist conclusions. After denying that God was omniscient, the Open Theists then realized that they also had to deny that God is sovereign so we see that happening also. The Calvinist system is built on the foundation of the attributes of God – that God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all wise, etc. Moving away from the Calvinist system requires that one outright deny or ignore what God is.

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  15. Thanks, Robert. I’ll take your advice to heart, with prayer. About the commentaries and the trolls, lol. Many blessings 🙂

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  16. Calvinists need to decide if they want to define who God is by the philosophical definitions of men without clear biblical support or by the revelation that God has given about Himself in Scripture!

    As for foreknowledge, if it not defined as meaning omniscience but only the loving choice of an individual, then philosophically speaking, the Calvinist must describe in a reasonable way how God chooses an individual as an individual without first knowing fully that individual’s complete life ahead of creation, which would include all of His divine involvement in it, and yet still say that such a choice was unconditional? Or, if they defend that the choice was made without the knowledge of the individual’s full future life, how could that individual be identified as an individual to lovingly choose. To say it is a mystery undermines the total importance and dogmatism of this foundational point of their system, in my opinion.

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    1. brianwagner writes, “…the Calvinist must describe in a reasonable way how God chooses an individual as an individual without first knowing fully that individual’s complete life ahead of creation, which would include all of His divine involvement in it, and yet still say that such a choice was unconditional?”

      Romans 9 tells us how God chooses His elect and the reprobate. “O man, who art you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”

      God is the potter. From the same lump of clay, God makes vessels of honor (His elect) and vessels of dishonor (the reprobate). The clay from which God makes humans is without distinction and each takes on its unique character as God makes them.

      The choice is conditional only on God’s good pleasure – and nothing unique within or accomplished by those God creates – this does not require that God know an individual’s complete life ahead of His creation of the person.

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      1. Rhutchin, I may not have been clear, but I wanted a Calvinist to describe how God picks individuals before creation. We were talking about foreknowledge. Does He know them as completed individual lives, which would include all His interactions with them, and then picks them? That sounds conditional to me. Or does He pick them without any knowledge of their lives… then how are they actually individuals at the point? Sounds mysterious to me. If you have a third way of looking at it, please share. I am willing to learn.

        As for Romans 9, you must concede that there is nothing in this passage that states clearly that these choices were made before creation. The Calvinist must limit God’s sovereignty and disregard how Jer 18:1-11 speaks about God’s changing His mind as a potter, which is probably the passage to which Paul is alluding here in Romans 9.

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      2. God does not “pick” individuals; He makes individuals. The questions is how does God determine which person is to be a vessel of honor and which is to be a vessel of dishonor per Romans 9. In Ephesians 1, Paul tells us that God works all things after the counsel of his own will. Job tells us that God stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever He pleases. Psalm 115 tells us, God is in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he pleased. So, God is the potter and creates one to be a vessel of honor and in the course of time, God brings that person to salvation; the other God creates to be a vessel of dishonor whom He judges at the end of time.

        What Romans 9 tells us is that each person is created as either a vessel of honor or dishonor. So, at the least, God knows at the conception of each person that which they will be. As this is God’s decision without respect to anything the person does with his life, nothing prevents God having decided whom He will create and whether the person will be a vessel of honor or dishonor before He created the universe.

        Jeremiah affirms God’s sovereignty over nations to do as He pleases with them.

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      3. That was a nice try, but it almost sounds like you are saying God does not choose them until after their conception for that is when they are made an individual in your view. But that would seem to necessitate that you believe Eph 1:4 is about corporate election, since your view seems to suggest that there were no individuals to elect before creation, except Jesus, and then each is chosen as an individual after their conception (or maybe just prior to it). Is that your position? If it is, I have never heard a Calvinist explain election that way.

        Also, are you clearly saying that God does not choose all individuals before having a foreknowledge before creation of the whole lives of those individuals, including His interactions with each of them?

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    2. Brian,

      Interesting line that you take in your post here. You speak of “how the Calvinist must describe in a reasonable way how God chooses an individual as an individual without first knowing fully that individual’s complete life ahead of creation, which would include all of HIs divine involvement in it, and yet still say that such a choice was unconditional?”

      Asking **how** God chooses in individual, is not a question that is asked of calvinists nor is it a question that they can answer from scripture. Because scripture nowhere tells us about God choosing individuals in eternity nor are the supposed “decrees” ever discussed or elaborated upon in scripture. to answer a “how” question you have to know the mechanics of a process, things never discussed by scripture. Which means the calvinist can onl speculate on this kind of issue. Sometimes non-calvinists will ask “why” God chooses one for salvation and one for damnation, but not “how” the choice is made.

      From my reading of and interaction with calvinists by “unconditonal election” they are emphasizing that there was nothing in the individual that merited their being chosen for election. So it is an attempt to ensure that people cannot merit their salvation in any way (probably as a result of the reformers trying to differentiate themselves from Catholic merit based views of salvation). But this has nothing to do with the “how” the choice was made. What I have seen with some of the sharper theological determinists is that they take an approach very similar to molinists except that everything is determined. So God considers various possible worlds (with each possible world being a full history of the world and containing very event that occurs in the history of that particular world) and chooses one of them. So say, to keep it simple, there are a total of 100 human persons in possible world X and in that world say 10 people will be saved (including Joe) and 90 people that will not be saved (the so-called “reprobates”, including Thomas). So by the fact that God decides to actualize/create world X in so doing Joe is chosen for salvation and Tom is chosen for damnation. In this way individuals are chosen for salvation/damnation and at the same time unconditional election is true concerning the elect like Joe as they do nothing in their lifetimes that merits salvation. So whatever world God chooses to actualize determines who is saved and lost in that particular world. Say that instead of world X God chooses to actualize world A. In world A Joe is a reprobate and Tom is a believer. Or in world C, both Joe and Tom are believers, etc. etc. So God has these entire histories in mind (individual possible worlds) and whichever one he actualize is the world history that then occurs. And in this way of thinking everything is predetermined by God including who will be saved and who will be lost in that particular world/history.

      Anyway, I think your asking “how” the choice is made is not a question that most calvinists are preparted to answer. Most are so thoroughly committed to the calvinistic system that they are not asking questions about the system instead they busy defending and promoting the system.

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      1. I appreciate your input Robert. I was always under the impression that the choice between possible worlds before creation was the Molinist – middle knowledge – position. But either way, for both the Calvinist and Molinist everything is predetermined before creation, even God’s own interactions with every human being throughout human history into the everlasting future.

        This false doctrine of predetermination makes God the puppeteer, with no divine freedom to deviate from His pre-determined script forever. And mankind is truly not a group of individual persons, but puppets, which cannot but do what was pre-determined for them to do. [I had to write this, instead of leaving for work on time :-)] God did not choose individual persons, in their view, He wrote a script for an everlasting puppet program. An author may say he chose to “love” certain characters in His story. And it could be unconditional, since they are only characters, without any individual choice in how the story goes. But one should take offense at such a use of the word “love”.

        This false doctrine of the predetermination of all things before creation has no clear Scripture support, goes against the normal reading of Scripture in the conditional future it presents, and defames the character of God’s sovereignty, freedom, truthfulness, and mercy!

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    3. brianwagner writes, “it almost sounds like you are saying God does not choose them until after their conception for that is when they are made an individual in your view.”

      Your view is that God is not omniscient – in not knowing the future with respect to whom is saved. Roman 9 tells us that God is the potter who creates people either as vessels of honor or dishonor. So, if Open Theist philosophy is consistent with Romans 9, then God creates people in time and thereby knows whether He created a person to be a vessel of honor or a vessel of dishonor – God’s knowledge of the state of the individual does not require that He know the future; God’s knows who will come to be saved because they are the vessels of honor that He creates. The eternal state of the individual is determined by God’s action to create the person as a vessel of honor or dishonor.

      As God’s decisions about vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor do not reflect any characteristic of the person or any action by the person, then Paul can tell us in Ephesians 1 that God chose us (the vessels of honor) in Christ before the foundation of the world. God made His decisions about vessels of honor and dishonor before He created the world and implemented those decisions in the course of time.

      In Romans 9, Paul’s speaks of individuals whom God creates as vessels of honor or dishonor. Jeremiah 18 speaks of nations (I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;) and that God can raise up a nation or destroy a nation – even as a potter can make a vessel and then destroy it to make another. Thus, Jeremiah 18 addresses a different issue than Romans 9 – the former deals with nations; the latter with individuals.

      So, the question now is whether you understand Open Theism to accurately portray Paul’s use of “potter” terminology in Romans 9.

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      1. Thank you for your reply Rhutchin. I might be a little slow, but it sounds like you are suggesting God’s decision for vessels of honor before creation was not settled as to what each of their names would be, or that He already had a predetermined knowledge of their completed life that also included His every involvement in it. Is that correct? I would like a yes or no and then an explanation of what you mean by your yes or no. That would help me a lot. Thanks. If yes, then in my mind we are moving closer together in understanding God’s freedom to still make decisions after creation, and to interact with His partially determined plan, just as you just described in your understanding of Jer 18. And if He can have that freedom with nations, he certainly can have it with individuals. Paul is speaking about both, when he alludes to the Jer 18 potter analogy, I believe.

        On a side note, you keep calling my view of omniscience by a term you think readers might become alarmed by. I am sure you would not like me to use the term Stoicism for your view of omniscience. Both Open Theism and Stoicism have been defined definitely by others, some looking for extremes found in their proponents to use as foundational to those definitions, much like many in my circles do when they hear the term Calvinism. This does not move the conversation forward in my view. Do you agree, or do you not agree, that definitions for our theological terms, like omniscience should be formed dogmatically only on the evidence found in the Scriptures? I am praying for you my friend.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “it sounds like you are suggesting God’s decision for vessels of honor before creation was not settled as to what each of their names would be, or that He already had a predetermined knowledge of their completed life that also included His every involvement in it. Is that correct?”

        No.. The distinction between vessel of honor and vessel of dishonor is clear – the former are God’s elect and the latter are the reprobate. The issue of salvation is settled by the creation of the person as a vessel of honor or dishonor. The Calvinist says that God is omniscient, so when God made His decisions regarding the vessel of honor, God knew every moment of that person’s life. The Open Theist would say that God only knows that He would bring the vessels of honor to salvation. One issue is settled – God knew, before creation, who He had decided to create as a vessel of honor or as a vessel of dishonor – thus, God knew them by name before He created the world. The quibble seems to be any other knowledge God has of these vessels.

        brianwagner writes, “in my mind we are moving closer together in understanding God’s freedom to still make decisions after creation, and to interact with His partially determined plan,…”

        The Calvinist maintains that God is all-wise, precluding the existence of partial plans. Once God makes a decision, that decision is the wisest that could be made and no later change would be required or necessary.

        brianwagner writes, “you keep calling my view of omniscience…”

        We use the same term, “omniscience,” but we each have different definitions of that term. Open Theism has confused the issue by taking a known term, “omniscience,” and using it is a way that it had not been used. The Open Theist should come up with another term to express what they mean and stop confusing the argument.

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  17. Brian,

    “I appreciate your input Robert. I was always under the impression that the choice between possible worlds before creation was the Molinist – middle knowledge – position.”

    Just think of it as Molinism without libertarian free will: that is what some of these sharp calvinists believe.

    “But either way, for both the Calvinist and Molinist everything is predetermined before creation, even God’s own interactions with every human being throughout human history into the everlasting future.”

    That is the KEY in all forms of theological determinism: “everything is predetermined before creation”

    “This false doctrine of predetermination makes God the puppeteer, with no divine freedom to deviate from His pre-determined script forever. And mankind is truly not a group of individual persons, but puppets, which cannot but do what was pre-determined for them to do.”

    I often appeal to the puppet analogy myself as it captures well the kind of control that God would exercise over us if calvinism were true. Unfortunately many calvinists will not admit that their view makes us puppets (they will even argue that it is not analogous because Puppets are not persons, but they are missing the point: that we are talking about the kind of control that God exercises according to calvinism and it **is** like the control a puppet master has over his puppets). One time I had a Calvinist respond when I brought up the puppet analogy about God’s control: that I was just responding our of fear, I was afraid to have God controlling me! I responded that in some ways I wish he was right as it would make sanctification much easier, just sit back and be controlled and God will make sure you always do the right thing. There is another problem with this calvinists claim about my supposed fear. It is a stupid thing to say if his calvinism is true. Here is why: if all is predestined and we are totally, always and everywhere being controlled by God, then if I have a fear reaction to this control, then God predestined THAT just as much as he predestined every thought that I have, every desire, every choice, every action, everything. Other analogies that I have used to make the point about control include it makes us like radio controlled airplanes, makes us like sock puppets with God’s hand in us directing our every thought and move, makes us like actors in a completely prescripted play. One of the things that I don’t appreciate about calvinists is that many are too dishonest to admit that if their theology is correct then we do become like puppets.

    “God did not choose individual persons, in their view, He wrote a script for an everlasting puppet program.”

    Exactly, note when I speak of the possible world that God decides to create, that he is not really choosing individuals, rather, he is choosing a prescripted story. And what this means is that salvation and damnation are completely a matter of luck. If he chooses a story line where you are saved, you had good luck. If he chooses a story line where you were damned, you had bad luck. And depending upon which possible world/script/story line he chooses, you could be either saved or chosen, it is all a matter of luck. So you better hope you were lucky enough to be in a possible world that included you being saved. Of course where this also gets nasty is that no matter which of these possible worlds/prescripted plays, most people get very unlucky and are damned for eternity (God sets them up for damnation, controls them so they cannot be saved, and then at a mockery of a final judgment sends them to eternal punishment after they perfectly played the role of unbeliever that he had given them! This is not at all like the God of the Bible, and the character of such a person who would intentionally damn most of the human race in this way is pretty vicious and nasty.

    “An author may say he chose to “love” certain characters in His story. And it could be unconditional, since they are only characters, without any individual choice in how the story goes. But one should take offense at such a use of the word “love”.”

    As one of my friends likes to put it, if calvinism is true and all is predestined, then everything is a sham. God says he hates divorce in the bible and yet he predestines every one of them. The same goes for every sin and evil, he may say it is wrong in the Bible, but he predestines them all, intends them all, desires them all to occur exactly as they occur. See he may say one thing in the Bible, but he has another will, the sovereign or secret will where he wants something else to occur. So you cannot trust the bible as it often is completely contradicted by the sovereign secret will.

    “This false doctrine of the predetermination of all things before creation has no clear Scripture support, goes against the normal reading of Scripture in the conditional future it presents, and defames the character of God’s sovereignty, freedom, truthfulness, and mercy!”

    Exactly, which is why this false doctrine needs to be opposed and exposed. It twists and mangles scripture but worst of all it maligns and as you say defames the character of God.

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    1. Robert writes, “I often appeal to the puppet analogy myself as it captures well the kind of control that God would exercise over us if calvinism were true….the kind of control that God exercises according to calvinism and it **is** like the control a puppet master has over his puppets). ”

      This is an incorrect analogy. A “puppet” has no ability to act other than as the strings are pulled. That all things are predetermined does not require that a person be a puppet. The people that God creates have the ability to move independently and to act at their own initiative. To apply the puppet analogy, we would only have God pulling the strings to restrain the puppet acting in certain ways; otherwise the puppet is free to act as he wills without being manipulated by the strings.

      Calvinism does not require that people be puppets. It states that people are free and independent in acting in any way they desire except that God can restrict the things that a person will be allowed to do. Stop using false analogies.

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      1. Calvinism – A divine Script of every event in human history forever, including God’s movements predetermined (His sovereignty and freedom thus limited), then creating the puppets and strings as needed, then the pulling or not pulling the strings as the script states. It is impossible for the puppet to choose other than the script, which includes all his movements and choices decided before he even became a puppet.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “It is impossible for the puppet to choose other than the script, which includes all his movements and choices decided before he even became a puppet.”

        Then there are no strings attached to the puppet; it moves under its own power – which of course, argues against calling it a puppet. God’s knowledge of the actions of the person before he does those actions is not the cause of the person doing those actions.

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      3. Rhutchin says – “God’s knowledge of the actions of the person before he does those actions is not the cause of the person doing those actions.”

        It most certainly is! Such knowledge comes only from God’s choice within His omniscience of all that is possible. If He chooses to limit those possibilities down to unalterable events before ever creating any of the players in those events, including limiting all of His own choices and sovereignty, He is certainly responsible for limiting His foreknowledge to an already completed human history and thus He is responsible as the primary cause for everything that follows when He creates. Saying it is not so does not counter this argument.

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      4. brianwagner writes, ” Such knowledge comes only from God’s choice within His omniscience of all that is possible. If He chooses to limit those possibilities down to unalterable events before ever creating any of the players in those events, including limiting all of His own choices and sovereignty, He is certainly responsible for limiting His foreknowledge to an already completed human history and thus He is responsible as the primary cause for everything that follows when He creates.”

        This appears to what you are arguing:

        1. God knows all that is possible.
        2. God can limit those possibilities down to one set of events.
        3. Therefore, God is the cause of that final set of events.

        That is basically what the Scriptures tells us. “A man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16)

        However, that does not mean that God is the cause in the sense of originating the set of possibilities; only that He restricts those possibilities to that which He wants, thereby being responsible for the person’s actions. God does not put desires into a person’s heart; God determines which desires a person expresses. God does not produce that which comes out of a person’s heart nor are God’s actions the reason for a person’s desires – a person devises his own mischief out of his evil heart without prompting from God – but, in the end, God is responsible for that which a person does because God is sovereign and always has the final say in what a person does.

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      5. Rhutchin writes: “Calvinism does not require that people be puppets. It states that people are free and independent in acting in any way they desire except that God can restrict the things that a person will be allowed to do. Stop using false analogies.”

        I will not stop using the analogy as it is not false, it perfectly captures the kind of control that God would be exercising if He predestined all events as consistent Calvinists claim. I get tired of Calvinists like Rhutchin trying to disavow this puppet analogy because virtually every time Calvinism comes up, this analogy comes up. I am not the only person making this analogy, many, many other non-Calvinists have made this same analogy on innumerable occasions.

        rhutchin’s statement that “people are free and independent in acting in any way they desire” is also false and misleading. In consistent Calvinism no one and nothing is independent of God in any way AND their every desire like every other aspect of them is predestined. This is misleading to appeal to people acting by their desires (as if they are freely sinning in line with their desires) because if God predestines their every desire (as he does in consistent Calvinism) then God directly and completely and continually controls them and their every thought or move: again just like the control the puppet master has over his puppets.

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      6. Robert writes, “I am not the only person making this analogy, many, many other non-Calvinists have made this same analogy on innumerable occasions.”

        The appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, so your argument is bankrupt. Non-Calvinists have created the strawman analogy of the puppet because they have no legitimate argument against Calvinism. That is no reason for you to follow their pernicious ways.

        2 Peter 2
        1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
        2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

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      7. “rhutchin’s statement that ‘people are free and independent in acting in any way they desire’ is also false and misleading. In consistent Calvinism no one and nothing is independent of God in any way AND their every desire like every other aspect of them is predestined. This is misleading to appeal to people acting by their desires (as if they are freely sinning in line with their desires) because if God predestines their every desire (as he does in consistent Calvinism) then God directly and completely and continually controls them and their every thought or move: again just like the control the puppet master has over his puppets.”

        In the puppet analogy, the puppeteer originates the actions of the puppet through the strings. So, are you claiming that God originates the desires within a person that He then directly and completely and continually controls? If you are, then you are making a false claim about God. God does not originate the evil desires that a person thinks – these desires arise from the person’s own evil heart.

        To get the puppet analogy to work, the false claim must be made.

        Proverbs 15
        2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.

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    2. Robert writes, “if calvinism is true and all is predestined, then everything is a sham. God says he hates divorce in the bible and yet he predestines every one of them. The same goes for every sin and evil, he may say it is wrong in the Bible, but he predestines them all, intends them all, desires them all to occur exactly as they occur.”

      If Calvinism is true then God is sovereign (exercising absolute control over His creation). If you don’t like that then rather than complaining about Calvinism, just state your position as it disagrees with Calvinism – i.e., that God is not sovereign. Identify your disagreement with Calvinism’s claim that God is sovereign and then build on your belief that God is not sovereign.

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      1. You can not own a definition of a word. God’s sovereignty, if not exercising control over His creation exactly according to a script He wrote before creation, then He is free to write, plan, determine things for individuals or nations, and He is free to permit possibilities for contra-causal freedom, that must fit into His ultimate desires and ends. That fits your definition of “exercising absolute control OVER creation” in my view!

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      2. brianwagner writes, ‘He is free to write, plan, determine things for individuals or nations, and He is free to permit possibilities for contra-causal freedom, that must fit into His ultimate desires and ends.”

        This works if you deny that God is all-wise. Given that God is all-wise, then there is no reason for Him to change any decision He makes. Of course, the Open Theist maintains that God does not have all knowledge, so God cannot be all-wise.

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      3. I think you would agree that an all wise God can freely make conditional decisions and unconditional decisions to allow for contra causal freedom with those bearing His image. Jeremiah 18 states clearly that He is making such decisions, which confirms that not everything was decided before creation.

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      4. brianwagner writes “I think you would agree that an all wise God can freely make conditional decisions and unconditional decisions to allow for contra causal freedom…”

        What you are saying is that God can set up situations for people to make decisions and reward those decisions. Thus, God can say, Obey me and I will take care of you; disobey me and you are on your own. Thus, in Jeremiah 18, God says, “If a nation does evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” One does not have to be wise to do that, much less all-wise.

        To be all-wise and make all-wise decisions regarding one’s actions requires that one have perfect knowledge of the impacts of the decisions that one makes. Knowledge of future impacts is knowledge of the future. Because Open Theism cannot work if God has knowledge of the future impacts of His decisions (especially as they relate to the salvation of individuals), the god of the Open Theist can neither be omniscient nor all-wise.

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      5. So are you saying that God is not powerful enough to create a world where contra-causal freedom exists and in His wisdom allow it knowing He would still be free to respond according to His nature in a variety of ways that would be consistent with His nature and knowing all those possibilities as they truly exist without being forced to determine them all ahead of time? Yes or No?

        In Jeremiah 18:11 God says – “…Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” Is God misrepresenting His sovereignty here in your view by not revealing that His plan was already completed before creation and making sound like He is truly free to make new plans? Yes or No? And is His invitation for “every one” of them to return only play acting and false, since He pre-determined that not “every one” of them would return before any one of them was created? Yes or No?

        It would really help me if you could answer the three yes and no questions along with your explanations. Thanks. Still praying for you.

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      6. Rhutchin like many other Calvinists claims that non-Calvinists do not believe in God’s sovereignty: this is not true. What we reject is not God’s sovereignty (which means He has the right and authority to do as He pleases in any and all situations) but the redefinition of sovereignty by Calvinists like Rhutchin as “exhaustive determinism”, as “God having predestined every event”.

        Rhutchin writes: “If Calvinism is true then God is sovereign”, but this is false as Calvinism is a man made and false system of theology. So the reality is that God **is** sovereign regardless of what theologies men develop or hold.

        He goes on to say “If you don’t like that [referring to sovereignty] then rather than complaining about Calvinism, just state your position as it disagrees with Calvinism – i.e. that God is not sovereign.”

        First of all bible believing non-Calvinists do “like” God’s sovereignty, as we “like” everything about God. Second, it is not that we don’t “like” God’s sovereignty, it is that we don’t accept the CALVINIST DEFINITION OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY. Third, it is not that we disagree with God being sovereign, it is again we disagree with the determinist’s/Calvinist’s definition of sovereignty. Fourth, when it comes to God actually being sovereign (as biblically defines as He does as He pleases in any and all situations), our liking or disliking it makes no different to the reality of God being sovereign. God is sovereign whether we like it or not.

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      7. 😀 My guess is that only Rhutchin, Phillip, Robert and I, and perhaps a few passer-byes are taking the time to read even a little of our convoluted conversation on this page!

        But not too far above this point Rhutchin, you listed a number of verses from Proverbs that I think you must feel are some of the strongest and clearest in support of God’s predetermination of all things before creation. But that reasoning does not follow necessarily from those examples, for all those examples just state what God is doing in the present tense – permitting what the tongue says, directing a man’s steps, turning the heart of a king. But none clearly state that man’s and God’s actions were all predetermined by God Himself before creation, and none of these statements necessitate that view. They actually also affirm contra-causal freedom within divinely permitted boundaries.

        Even the verse that mentions a divine “counsel” of God, just says that it “will stand,” but does not say the divine counsel means everything was predetermined by God before creation. The Scripture presents divine counsels that include angelic beings and divine decisions being made after their input (Job 1, Daniel 4). Because of God’s pansophism (Ps 147:5), of course, God still knows perfectly all the choices He and those beings with a will (angels and men) are free to make, but in His manifold wisdom He did not predetermine all those choices before creation.

        Since God did not reveal in Scripture that He predetermined everything before creation and instead reveals in Scripture that there is true contra-causal freedom by His use of invitations, commands, conditional statements about the future and clear statements of His still making decisions (Jer 18:1-11), being dogmatic about the position that God predetermined all things is an attack on the character, the revelation, and the will of God, in my view.

        Unwittingly, I think, but a subconscious revelation of what Calvinism really teaches, though it is often denied, is found your words above Rhutchin –

        “but, in the end, God is responsible for that which a person does because God is sovereign”

        You have just clearly said that God is responsible for man’s sin, for that is one of the things man, especially this man, does! That is not true about the God of the Bible, but it is about the god of Calvinism!

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      8. brianwagnerwrites, “…you listed a number of verses from Proverbs that I think you must feel are some of the strongest and clearest in support of God’s predetermination of all things before creation. But that reasoning does not follow necessarily from those examples, for all those examples just state what God is doing in the present tense – permitting what the tongue says, directing a man’s steps, turning the heart of a king. But none clearly state that man’s and God’s actions were all predetermined by God Himself before creation, and none of these statements necessitate that view. They actually also affirm contra-causal freedom within divinely permitted boundaries.”

        The issue here was whether people are adhering to a script. If God exercises absolute sovereign control over the actions people take, then we can conclude that people operate from a script known to, and decreed by, God.

        I agree that these verses help us understand contra-causal freedom (the ability of a person to think and desire freely) within any constraints of God’s sovereignty. We see that people are basically free to desire anything they want without interference from God. However, when a person seeks to turn desires into action, God has the final say. A person is able to actualize his desires to those actions that God says he can. Balaam was hired to curse Israel and that was his desire, but God would only let him speak words of blessing on Israel (in this instance, Balaam could only speak the words God gave him to speak). During the ministry of Jesus, people sought to kill Him, but were not allowed to carry out their desires. As you state, “[The verses] actually also affirm contra-causal freedom within divinely permitted boundaries.” The divinely permitted boundaries are the script that people follow.

        God knows the desires that people have, but He controls the means available to people to carry out those desires. God controls the means available to people such that they act according to God’s decree. God knows the thoughts of people before they think them – …you understand my thought afar off (where “afar off” refers to time and knowing before it happens) (Psalm 139). We read in Acts 2, that Jesus was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” This foreknowledge would encompass the thoughts of those who conspired against Jesus and were known to God before actualized in the minds of these people.

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      9. brianwagner writes, “…there is true contra-causal freedom by His use of invitations, commands, conditional statements about the future and clear statements of His still making decisions (Jer 18:1-11), being dogmatic about the position that God predetermined all things is an attack on the character, the revelation, and the will of God, in my view.”

        Context is important here. Paul asks a question in Romans, “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” In the context of this question, Paul explains what God has done – He created vessels of dishonor fitted for destruction and vessels of honor to whom He would make known the riches of His glory. It is to these people, as a whole, that we read of God making invitations, commands, conditional statements about the future. Such invitations, commands, and conditional statements are made to both vessels of dishonor and vessels of honor. What happens? When Elijah complains, God tells him that He has reserved 7,000 vessels of honor who also serve Him – “the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble.” The vessels of dishonor naturally reject God’s invitations and commands. And why not? David, in the psalm, says that, “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no, not one.” Such are the vessels of dishonor.

        So what purpose is served by God’s invitations and commands? They are the means that God uses to separate the vessels of honor from the vessels of dishonor. Is there any other conclusion we can draw, when we first consider that the people to whom these invitations and commands are made are already known to be comprised of vessels of honor and vessels and dishonor?

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      10. brianwagner writes, “Unwittingly, I think, but a subconscious revelation of what Calvinism really teaches, though it is often denied, is found your words above Rhutchin –

        “but, in the end, God is responsible for that which a person does because God is sovereign”

        You have just clearly said that God is responsible for man’s sin,…”

        The issue here is the definition of “responsible.” The definition the Calvinist uses is “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management.” Because God is sovereign, everything that happens is within His power to prevent. God has the final say on everything that happens so that it is God’s decision that anything happen.

        Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” A bird of no monetary value and seemingly insignificant cannot fall to the ground without God deciding that it should fall to the ground.

        In Colossians 1, Paul tells us, “For by Jesus all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Jesus created this universe and He sustains it. If Jesus did not sustain this universe and all its physical laws, it would collapse into chaos and ruin. A person goes to sleep at night and awakes the next morning only because Jesus has sustained their physical bodies; otherwise their physical bodies would have ceased to live during the night.

        Can a man sin apart from the will of God? Is man autonomous and free of God to do as He pleases? The Calvinist says, No. God is sovereign and rules absolutely over sinful people. A person cannot sin unless God first decide that he should and this because God is responsible for His creation and His creation is under His absolute control. It is God who has the final say on whether to intervene to prevent any person from carrying out the evil desires of their heart or not to intervene and allow natural events to proceed unhindered by Him.

        So, God does not make a person sin, but God has absolute power to prevent a person sinning so, in the end, God is responsible for the person and what that person does. Thus, we read in proverbs, ““A man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.” That is what the Calvinist means when he says that God is responsible for a person’s actions, even his sin.

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      11. Roger, I think the Lord may have to use someone else to help you see the logical fallacy of trying to hold that God is responsible for creating a human history where everything, even every sinful act of man, is preordained to happen by Him, where there can be no true contra-causal freedom, and yet that god is not responsible, guilty, for causing those sins. You have focused on God’s truly permissive will and sustaining power which, I agree, do not in themselves make God guilty for all man’s sins, but logically, the view of God predetermining every specific sin before creation certainly does. I hope you will come to see this how false, unbiblical and harmful that philosophical view is.

        Perhaps both of us are trying to do our best to glorify the Lord in our explanation of these things. But I have discovered that taking the Bible normally as a layperson reads it for himself, without interpolations for Greek philosophy, helps all unbelievers know with certainty that God loves each one of them, and invites each one of them to accept His sufficient payment for all their sins. He wants to be welcome them to partake of the tree of life forever and to have their name written in the Lamb’s book of life. A a portion of that tree and a place for their name has been assigned for them, but they may never get to have either fulfilled if they reject God’s grace revealed to them (Rev. 22:19) I hope Roger, and I am praying for you, that you will be enlightened on these things and will humble yourself enough to accept them as true.

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  18. Calvinism, the “worst news” possible for millions upon millions of poor souls.

    It was Shakespeare who wrote “all the world’s a stage”. How little did he know.

    Yes, Brian, according to Calvinism, the world is just a stage. Every Soul, before the world was created, was given a roll, or script, to play. The sad part is each person plays his or her part perfectly, and yet most are eternally damned for doing so.

    The written, or revealed, will of God? Mere public relations and nothing more. What matters most is the secret decreed will of God and that will is performed perfectly by each and every player on stage.

    And here we thought that only Jesus lived a perfect life.

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    1. phillip writes, “Every Soul, before the world was created, was given a roll, or script, to play. The sad part is each person plays his or her part perfectly, and yet most are eternally damned for doing so. ”

      The difference being that God is an active participant in the lives of His elect and the script they follow includes His guidance and help. For the reprobate, they pursue their own desires without a thought for God. Of course God’s knowledge of the things the reprobate do is not the cause of them doing it – for that, their lives follow the script written by their sin nature.

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      1. Rhutchin,

        You said … “they pursue their own desires without a thought for God.”

        But wasn’t this just the part/script they were given to play? Or did they step out of “character” and mess up the Director’s script?

        Are these “desires” a part of God’s secret decreed will, or was He caught off guard?

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      2. Phillip writes, “But wasn’t this just the part/script they were given to play? Or did they step out of “character” and mess up the Director’s script? Are these “desires” a part of God’s secret decreed will, or was He caught off guard?”

        By “part of the script,” is meant that God knew beforehand the things that a person would do. God is omniscient and knows the thoughts a person thinks even before those thought form in the person’s mind. God knows every second of every event that will take place tomorrow. That God knows all these things is not the cause of these things. At the same time, because God is sovereign and His rule over a person is absolute.

        “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.” (Proverbs 16)

        “A man’s heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16)

        “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19)

        “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turns it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21)

        Jeremiah tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” That is the result of Adam’s sin and people are born in that condition. God knows what a person devises in his heart and rather than put such things in a person’s heart, God restrains the person in those desires he is able to carry out.

        The person seeks to follow all the evil in a script written by his evil heart but God tells him what he will be allowed to do and the final script is determined by God.

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      1. Brian,

        Phillip and I do not disagree regarding Calvinism, we both oppose it strongly and we have used the same arguments and scriptures against it. My problem with Phillip has never been disagreeing about Calvinism. I appreciate his challenges to Calvinism and he makes some excellent points against it.

        No, my disagreement with Phillip is his statements on depravity. He has repeatedly misrepresented what Arminians believe on this issue. He has also presented a unique view not held by others on depravity. Let’s use myself as an example on this. First of all I am a Baptist and have been for years. I hold all of the Baptist distinctive (including believer baptism, congregational form of church government, age of accountability, inerrancy of scripture, that you cannot lose your salvation, etc.). Second if we are talking about the Calvinist acronym TULIP. I hold to depravity (I.e. that the effects of sin have effected every aspect of human persons, hence the effects of sin are “total”, I believe that because of the fall all are born spiritually dead, i.e. separated from God, I do not believe contra the Calvinists that people are born with the guilt of Adam imputed to them, I do not agree with the Calvinist conception of depravity where the nonbeliever is like a physically dead corpse unable to ever understand spiritual things or respond in any way to God unless they are regenerated first, I reject the false doctrine that regeneration precedes faith, I do believe that people are unable to come to Christ in faith unless they experience a preconversion work of the Holy Spirit, this work of the Spirit involves them being convicted of their sin, shown the identity of Jesus, shown the nature of salvation through Christ, the Spirit works primarily through gospel presentation but he can also reveal things to people in other ways as well). I reject unconditional election and am leaning towards a corporate election perspective on election (I do not accept that God looks ahead through the corridors of time and then chooses those he foreknows will have faith). I believe that God designed a plan of salvation in which the atonement of Christ is provided for all but applied only to believers (whether they be OT saints who have never heard of Jesus, babies, those who die before the age of accountability, the mentally disabled, and in some cases those who never hear the gospel of Jesus in their lifetime). Regarding limited atonement it is a false doctrine developed out of the false Calvinistic system. The system drives this view because scripture does not teach it and the texts are clear that Jesus died for the whole world. Regarding irresistible grace, I believe that the preconversion work of the Spirit enables but does not necessitate a faith response to the gospel. God’s grace can and is resisted both before conversion and also by believers after they have been saved. Regarding “perseverance” I hold that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation (though some may profess to be believers but were never actually saved, cf. the Lord, Lord people of Matt. 7). I also believe that God disciplines his own and sometimes this discipline also includes taking them out of this life (cf. the sin unto death, the believers at Corinth who were abusing communion). Regarding Calvinism I believe it is a false theology and to be rejected for biblical, philosophical and experiential grounds.

        Now I lay this out for you Brian to explain why I have not appreciated some of Phillip’s comments in the past. At one time he tried to argue that I was a “two point” Calvinist since I hold to “T” and P” of TULIP. But this is a misrepresentation as I am not Calvinist whatsoever. Phillip also has at times (and even in this thread) tried to insinuate that I am an “Arminian” who is just trying to divide people up in the name of Arminianism. Again, a misrepresentation, I am strongly against Calvinism, but sympathetic to various forms of non-Calvinism (i.e. Molinism, what is called at SBC today “Traditionalist”, by the way I fit the Traditionalist category very well, Ockhamist, etc.).

        Regarding being Arminian it depends upon how you define it. Some define Arminian as someone who agrees with and follows the beliefs of Arminius himself (not true for me because I disagree with Arminius’s view of depravity which is almost identical with the Calvinist conception of depravity, I disagree with Arminius on baptism. Some define Arminian as believing that you can lose our salvation (well by that definition again I am not Arminian as I do not believe you can lose your salvation, i.e. the traditional Baptist position). Some define Arminian as having the view of election in which God foreknows who will have faith and chooses them to be the elect (I have problems with this view, and again lean towards the corporate election view).

        Now if you ask do I hold Arminian beliefs: the answer is Yes. As I have tried to point out to Phillip in the past Arminians have differing views on depravity. Some sound just like a Calvinist (e.g. Arminius himself is a perfect example). Some are like me in that we affirm depravity but our view is very different from the Calvinist conception. All Arminians affirm depravity but they have differing conceptions of it. On election some Arminians hold the foreknown faith view of election, others hold the corporate election view. On the atonement all Arminians hold to the unlimited atonement view. On grace Arminians deny that it is irresistible. Arminians also believe in prevenient grace. All this means is that there is a grace that goes before, that the sinner on their own apart from God’s grace cannot come to faith in Christ. People present this differently but if you mean by prevenient grace the preconversion work of the Spirit that enables but does not necessitate faith, then I affirm that to be true. I do a lot of evangelism and have been involved in the coming to faith of many people. I have literally seen this preconversion work of the Spirit many times. I have interviewed those who came to faith and while they may have differing reasons (e.g. one came as a result of their apologetics questions being satisfactorily answered, another had a major crises in their life that the Lord delivered them from, another went to a evangelistic sermon, etc. etc.) but they speak of how Jesus was revealed to them (who did that?) how they were convicted of their sin (who did that?) how they understood spiritual things in a new way (who did that?) etc. If we look at our own conversion experiences we see the same kinds of things. So am I “Arminian” depends on your definition of it. Am I a two point Calvinist? Definitely not. Am I Baptist? Yes. I seem to be or are becoming what at the SBC today site is referred to as a “Traditionalist.”

        One last things, contrary to the picture that Phillip tried to present here that I have had problems with many posters at SBC today this is not accurate at all. For the most part I have had no problem interacting with others, including others who are Calvinists. I must admit however, that I do have a problem with a couple individuals. These are individuals who seem to post all over the internet promoting and defending Calvinism. These individuals have repeatedly and continually misrepresented the views of non-Calvinists. They repeatedly slander non-Calvinists as “semi-Pelagians” “Pelagians”, “open theists”, “atheists”. Over and over they are refuted and corrected by others and yet they never change, they just keep presenting Calvinism and attacking others. I find this behavior to be unacceptable. If someone says something inappropriate or offensive in one situation, that can happen to any of us. But if someone keeps doing this over and over and over again, that is not just someone having a bad day, that is something much worse.

        Anyway Brian I share these things to be transparent with you and so you can better understand where I am coming from as well as why certain individuals have at times brought out less than appropriate conduct from me.

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      2. Thank you Robert for giving me more insight as to your beliefs concerning Soteriology and your interaction with others. Let me encourage you not to hold anything against anyone personally if you are (Mark 11:25-26).

        Also, I think eternal security has never been a major Baptist principle, though it is a biblical one that even all Arminians believe, though many of them do not believe it starts with certainty till after death.

        I really have a problem with labels and grouping individuals by them, even though we have the biblical examples of Christ and Paul using such publicly (Matt 23, Acts 22). As you have pointed out by using yourself as an example, you do not mind using some terms to identify yourself, even if you do not hold to all major points in their system, but you avoid other labels because of certain major points in their system. My hope is that on sites like this we drop trying to label each other and even ourselves and deal more with specific passages of Scriptures and what those passages teach about God’s wonderful salvation.

        I would also encourage you to reconsider the “deterministic” sound of the last part of your last statement – “why certain individuals have at times brought out less than appropriate conduct from me.” Certain individuals may present the opportunity for our flesh to respond inappropriately, but I think you would agree with me that we are always responsible for our own inappropriate conduct. Blessings!

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      3. Brian (Leighton),

        Oh boy. See what I mean about being “long-winded”?

        There’s a lot to address, but I will just touch a couple of things.

        Notice how both Robert and Rhutchin write. They both will say things like “Robert writes…” and “Rhutchin writes….”. Neither seem to be willing to directly address the other and neither will acknowledge the other as a brother in Christ. Both will write about the other, but neither are willing to interact with the other.

        Unedifying.

        Robert said… “If someone says something inappropriate or offensive in one situation that can happen to any of us. But if someone keeps doing this over and over and over again, that is not just someone having a bad day that is something much worse.”

        Precisely. And that is WHY Robert was temporarily banned (at SBC Today).

        Even after being banned from SBC Today, which Robert fails to acknowledge, he wrote to Leighton after this same article was posted over there….

        “PS- Leighton I have only one suggestion for you: ignore the comments of any Calvinist trolls that try to engage you on this topic.”

        Image that. Robert giving Leighton advice on how to respond to others. Again, unedifying.

        Now look closely at what Robert wrote earlier to Amyra.

        “They (Open Theists) may be mistaken but they also may hold the essentials of the faith and be in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus, which is what really matters. For these reasons and others I say ignore and avoid the (Calvinist) trolls and don’t waste time on them. We are too limited in our time to be wasting time on these type people.”

        Is he suggesting that our calvinist brothers are not in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus? That’s certainly the implication. And, perhaps, this is the very reason Robert never refers to Calvinists as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

        Again, unedifying.

        There is much that Robert (yes…he is my brother in Christ) writes that I am in complete agreement with, though, admittedly, I don’t usually have the time to read his “sermons”. My problem with Robert is not necessarily WHAT he writes, but HOW he writes it.

        Someone once said…. “What you are is so loud, I cannot hear what you say.”

        And there you go.

        Blessings, brother.

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  19. I think Brother Leighton does a great job in discussing how jumping to the final acts of both believer and unbeliever does not disconnect God from being responsible if everything was predetermined before creation. In an earlier post on this site he responded to the Calvinist argument and to the one who says – *

    “…that God doesn’t “DIRECTLY” cause sin but then goes on to show how God causally determines it through secondary means, as if that doesn’t afford the exact same argument. Face it, in that system God determined the nature which determined the desire which determined the choice of the evil agent. Plugging in a thousand deterministic causal links in that chain doesn’t make the argument magically disappear any more so than if I said, “I didn’t kill my boss. I hired someone who hired someone who hired someone else to kill him.” Do determinists really think adding more links in their deterministic chain somehow relinquishes the truck to which the chain is attached?

    ‘Why did you just use your truck to pull my tree out of my yard, sir?’

    ‘No I didn’t, not technically. The chain did.’

    ‘Your chain! The one you attached to my tree and your truck! How can you say you didn’t pull it up?’

    ‘Oh, no, see I only put some links here in the chain, so you really can’t blame me for that.’

    ‘Huh, you put some links there. So, yes I can. You pulled up the tree.’

    ‘You aren’t quite smart enough to get it obviously, but because I added several links in the chain that have really hard to pronounce jargon as their titles, I’m not really to blame here. You can’t understand. You’re too jejune. Just trust me, I didn’t cause it. Now stop with the nonsensical questions!”

    * [I took the liberty of editing some grammatical issues]

    Of course any illustration can be critiqued, but the main idea is sound. God made it all and determined before He made any of it the ends for all He made down to each event of human history forever, even including the individual choices of all humans before even one of them was even created. There is no contra-causal freedom possible, nor personal responsibility according to God’s definition of justice in Scripture, in such a view of pre-determinism, no matter how much one may protest that there is!

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    1. Brian,

      I think Calvinist Vincent Cheung spells it out simply.

      “Also, Calvinists often affirm that Adam was free before the Fall. But again, I always speak of freedom relative to God, and from this perspective, I would say that Adam had no freedom whatsoever even before the Fall. To be ‘free’ from sin is irrelevant. The issue is whether Adam was free from God to choose to remain free from sin – he was not. In addition, I would not say that God permitted Adam to fall, but that God caused it. Many Calvinists would also disagree with me on this.

      Compatibilists would hesitate to say that we are free from God, but they would insist that since we always act according to the strongest desire of the moment, that this is a real sense of freedom, and that this ‘freedom’ is the precondition for moral responsibility.

      Let’s say that I have committed a murder. I was indeed free from other creatures when I made my decision, and I acted according to my own internal desire. But this desire was caused and controlled by God, and the fact that I would always act on my strongest desire (which is human nature) was also caused by God. But this amounts to saying that we have no freedom from God to abstain from murder, but that we only have an internal freedom from other creatures to abstain from murder.”

      Disturbing, but consistent.

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  20. Brian,

    We have been given some more good examples of Phillip misrepresenting things I have said.

    Phillip writes:

    “Notice how both Robert and Rhutchin write. They both will say things like “Robert writes…”
    and “Rhutchin writes….”. Neither seem to be willing to directly address the other and neither will acknowledge the other as a brother in Christ. Both will write about the other, but neither are willing to interact with the other.
    Unedifying.”

    That is just a matter of writing style. When quoting someone I will often write “X writes”. No offense intended there, but Phillip chooses to take offense.

    “Robert said… “If someone says something inappropriate or offensive in one situation that can happen to any of us. But if someone keeps doing this over and over and over again, that is not just someone having a bad day that is something much worse.”
    Precisely. And that is WHY Robert was temporarily banned (at SBC Today).”

    I was temporarily banned because I responded inappropriately to a couple of individuals (that “t” word).

    “Now look closely at what Robert wrote earlier to Amyra.
    “They (Open Theists) may be mistaken but they also may hold the essentials of the faith and be in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus, which is what really matters. For these reasons and others I say ignore and avoid the (Calvinist) trolls and don’t waste time on them. We are too limited in our time to be wasting time on these type people.
    Is he suggesting that our calvinist brothers are not in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus? That’s certainly the implication. And, perhaps, this is the very reason Robert never refers to Calvinists as our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    Did I say anything in my words to Amyra that calvinists are all unsaved persons? No.

    So where does Phillip come up with this thought?

    And note my words to Amyra where **specifically** talking about the “t” word again (“ignore and avoid the (Calvinist) t’s and don’t waste time on them.” Who is the “them” referring to? To all calvinists or only to “t’s”?

    Phillip also writes: “And, perhaps, this is the very reason Robert never refers to Calvinists as our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    That statement is false. Here are some examples from just this week from over at SBC today a blog that Phillip follows and frequently posts at:

    “In my past I worked in counter cult ministry with Walter Martin. We ran into this kind of semantic obfuscation and semantic game playing all the time with these non-Christian cults. With this experience you come to expect it from them as a clear and forthright presentation would not gain them many (or any) new members. It is sad however when this involves professing Christians. That is one of the reasons I have major problems with Calvinistic theology; not only is it false but it leads Bible believing folks to engage in the exact same kinds of semantic obfuscation and game playing that the non-Christian cults engage in. And this further leads to completely unnecessary confusion among Christians (e.g. the SBC being a perfect contemporary illustration).”

    [Hmm I say they are “professing Christians” and “Bible believing folks”]

    “This is a perfect illustration of the kind of obfuscation that it leads to. And Edwards was a very smart and sincere believer, so it is not a matter of intelligence or sincerity. That is another sad thing about Calvinism: it ensnares for the most part very intelligent folks.”

    {I say that Jonathan Edwards was a believer and very smart and sincere, I also say that most calvinists are “very intelligent folks”]

    “Regarding character we can find godly calvinists, Traditionalists, Arminians, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. We can also find ungodly people in these groups as well. Most of us would readily grant this point, I think. What Ronnie is bringing up is just one of the inconsistencies present in calvinist theology. Inconsistencies are a sign of error not truth. If we want to talk about the presence of “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in different groups isn’t that another article than the one Ronnie has written here?”

    [here I explicitly say that in all groups you will find godly and ungodly people, and I explicitly include Calvinists]

    So why does Phillip feel the need to misrepresent my words here?

    I wrote a long post to you Brian and was transparent in it. And what does Phillip do? He takes it and uses it as yet another opportunity to misrepresent and attack my words.

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  21. Brian (Leighton),

    Oh boy (again).

    I’ll keep this short.

    Robert says…. “I was temporarily banned because I responded inappropriately to a couple of individuals (that “t” word).”

    Let’s see. So Robert was banned all of February because of something he said in January (or earlier). So then on 3/27/15 Robert writes to Leighton at SBC Today….

    “Leighton I have only one suggestion for you: ignore the comments of any Calvinist trolls that try to engage you on this topic.”

    Then on 4/7/15 Robert comes to this website and in one long-winded paragraph uses the “t” word 5 times with no signs of remorse.

    Hmmmmmm.

    Now I have no idea what the moderator at SBC Today told Robert regarding the reason he would be disciplined, but I can assure you it was for far more than a simple slip of the mouth. And more than a couple of people were offended (lots more). Sadly, right before his punishment, other brothers in Christ were pleading with him to show grace. Instead, Robert just got worse and worse, which only solidified his exile.

    If Robert truly believes his banishment was due to a couple of slip-ups, then his punishment meant nothing, because he hasn’t learned anything. And the behavior will only continue (as demonstrated above).

    God bless, brother(s).

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  22. Robert and Phillip –

    Love covers a multitude of sins. Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Let your speech be always with grace. Repay no one evil for evil. In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.

    I have enjoyed much of what both of you have shared, but I have been grieved by the obvious lack of mercy and grace that exists between you both. If either of you feel the testimony of your reputation is being harmed by the other, let the Lord defend you by your silence and your gracious replies about the more important issues. And please exhort me when I fail the next time to reflect the demeanor of God’s servant.

    What a Wonderful Savior is Jesus! Brian

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  23. Brian,

    In an earlier post in this thread the person who posts as “rhutchin” in response to my use of the puppet analogy wrote:

    “The appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, so your argument is bankrupt. Non-Calvinists have created the strawman analogy of the puppet because they have no legitimate argument against Calvinism. That is no reason for you to follow their pernicious ways.
    2 Peter 2
    1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”

    Brian you are a New Testament professor.

    Is 2 Pet. 2: 1-2 in its original intended meaning, a warning by Peter against non-Calvinists using the puppet analogy for calvinism?

    Rhutchin urges me not to follow the ways of those who use the puppet analogy (presumably that would include you as well, right Brian since you also used this analogy earlier in the thread); “That is no reason for you [presumably that is me] to follow their pernicious ways.”

    Further rhutchin cites 2 Pet. 2 which says these false teachers “bring in damnable heresies”, that they “even denying the Lord that bought them” and that they lead others to “follow their pernicious ways.”

    Brian is this a legitimate use of this text by rhutchin?

    Brian am I interpreting rhutchin correctly here that he is claiming that non-Calvinists who use the puppet analogy are the same people as those described in 2 Pet. 2 as false teachers?

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    1. Robert, My reply would be to always let the text speak for itself and when you believe you are personally misrepresented, let the reader decide for themselves. I have always thought that most readers of comments on blogs like this one are pretty discerning, and as the old saying goes, “Don’t seek to defend yourself from what you think is false accusation. Your friends do not need an explanation, and your enemies will not believe you anyway!” 🙂

      As far as 2Pet 2:1 is concerned, I love the Lord Jesus deeply, and I believe that you profess to also, Robert. I don’t think there is a word Jesus has spoken that is recorded in the Scriptures that you would deny, nor do you desire to deny Him. Together we can praise His name that He loved the whole world (John 3:16) and that He became the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2), and even paid for the sins of those who do deny Him and try to lead others astray by damnable heresies, as Peter clearly says in this passage.

      I pray God will enlighten and convict those who have been blinded by the philosophical underpinnings of Calvinism, which twist the clear meanings of Scripture. I hope that they will make their calling and election sure by demonstrating a fervent love for the brethren like Peter also talked about (1Pet 1:22). Just believing and trusting in the tenets of Calvinism does not guarantee salvation. The tenets of Calvinism did not pay for anyone’s salvation.

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  24. Robert asks, “Is 2 Pet. 2: 1-2 in its original intended meaning, a warning by Peter against non-Calvinists using the puppet analogy for calvinism?”

    My claim is that non-Calvinists created the puppet analogy as a strawman to attack Calvinism because they could not argue against Calvinism’s exegesis of the Scriptures.

    Now we know from Jeremiah 17 that: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:”

    Then Jesus told us (recorded in Mark 7), “[Jesus] went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.”

    Calvinism agrees with this. The heart of man, corrupted because of Adam’s sin, is the source of his evil desires.

    What does the “puppet” analogy say? It says that Calvinists make God the source of evil desires in a person because it is God pulling the strings. Thus, Robert writes, “if God predestines their every desire (as he does in consistent Calvinism) then God directly and completely and continually controls them and their every thought or move: again just like the control the puppet master has over his puppets.”

    That God predestines (or properly, ordains) everything does not make God a puppet master or one who manipulates people by pulling their strings. God’s sovereignty gives God absolute control over His creation and allows Him to restrain people from doing the evil they want to do. It does not mean that God tempts people or that He is the source of their evil thoughts and desires. If anything, we should attribute this to Satan. If anyone is the puppet master, we should conclude that it is Satan and not God.

    The puppet analogy has been used to deflect from the real issues raised by Calvinism for which there is room for legitimate discussion. Anyone using the puppet analogy is purposely (as far as I can tell) seeking to obfuscate the true issues and avoid dealing with truth. So, Robert, if the shoe fits, wear it.

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    1. Actually Roger, the puppeteer analogy is not a straw man. You have agreed that God wrote the script of human history before it started, before the first player in it was created, and that the script includes every detail of human history, even every sinful act, which must take place according to that script which was created from God’s omniscience and omnipotence as you define those terms. Logically man or angel cannot be held responsible for sins that they were scripted to do, and unable not to do, before they even came into existence. The puppet analogy holds because you have affirmed the “Script” analogy!

      On a side note, I hope you would agree that speaking in an unkind way does not help move the conversation forward or show any concern for someone else’s soul. This I believe is one of the most harmful aspects of Calvinism. Besides of its lack of Scriptural foundation and twisting of the normal presentation of gospel truth, it produces a lack of true compassion for and prayer for the souls of men.

      Linking someone personally on this, or any blog, to 2Pet 2:1 or Jer 17:9 infers that you do not think they are saved. Is that true? If so, do you care for their souls? Do you think confrontation in such a way will bring them closer to trusting only in Jesus and then help them to stop misrepresenting him? How successful has that method been for you in the past in helping others “escape the snare of the evil” (2Tim 2:22-26)? Please Roger, my friend, consider.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “The puppet analogy holds because you have affirmed the “Script” analogy!”

        In the puppet analogy,as Robert uses it, the puppet a non-living, non-thinking thing that only moves as the puppet master pulls the strings. If that is correct, then it is a strawman. However, if you will allow that the puppet is a thinking being with contra-causal freedom to make decisions then the analogy can work – a sovereign God can override the actions of a person with contra-causal freedom without destroying that contra-causal freedom to think and desire otherwise. So, how about describing the characteristics of the puppet that fits the analogy as you see it. As Robert described it – where God even controls its every thought – the analogy is a strawman.

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      2. brianwagner writes, ” hope you would agree that speaking in an unkind way does not help move the conversation forward or show any concern for someone else’s soul.’ and then says, “…twisting of the normal presentation of gospel truth, it produces a lack of true compassion for and prayer for the souls of men.” So, I am not to be unkind but you can be.

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      3. Roger, When you say “a sovereign God can override the actions of a person with contra-causal freedom” you are speaking like a person who believes everything has not been predetermined and scripted. Can God do other than the Script He created and predetermined to be fulfilled? If so, then logically He cannot “override” anything, and there is not true contra-causal freedom, even for Himself, once creation began.

        If you felt that my general observations (attacks) of Calvinism was meant as a personal attack, please forgive me. I hope you can sense that I hate the theology but love the theologian! I know I fail at making that clear sometimes. Please, Roger, accept my apology!

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      4. Yes rhutchin (or is it “Roger”) I want an answer to Brian’s question as well. You appear to be applying 2 Pet. 2:1 to non-calvinists who bring up the puppet analogy: do you believe they are not saved?

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      5. Robert writes, “You appear to be applying 2 Pet. 2:1 to non-calvinists who bring up the puppet analogy: do you believe they are not saved?”

        2 Peter 2:1 reads: “there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”

        The end result is that “the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” Is that the end result sought by those who use the puppet analogy? It depends on what the non-Calvinist actually means to accomplish by using the “puppet analogy.” From the way I have seen it used, it is a false analogy used to denigrate Calvinist theology instead of addressing the real issues (I think because no substantive argument can be made). If Calvinist theology did not accurately represent the truth contained in the Scriptures, there should be no hindrance to taking it head-on and not resorting to false analogies.

        The Open Theist has done this by stating that they don’t buy into the idea that God is omniscient as the Calvinist portray Him to be, nor sovereign, nor all-wise, nor omnipresent, nor omnipotent, and perhaps more. Those differences can be investigated, and that is happening. However misguided the Open Theist is, these are legitimate differences and there is no presumption that the Open Theist could not be saved.

        So, what is the intent of the other non-Calvinists in using a false analogy – or if not false, explaining what is meant by the analogy? Is it an effort to denigrate Calvinism and avoid truth or is it a search for truth. In the one case, we might conclude that we have a false teacher; in the other not so but then, why use a false analogy. You can put on the shoe that fits.

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      6. brianwagner writes, “When you say “a sovereign God can override the actions of a person with contra-causal freedom” you are speaking like a person who believes everything has not been predetermined and scripted. Can God do other than the Script He created and predetermined to be fulfilled?”

        Under Calvinism, God has ordained all that happens and did so before He created the world. However, it is in the course of time that God acts to bring to pass that which He has ordained – e.g., the destruction of Sodom/Gormorrah, the impregnation of Mary, the confrontation with Saul of Tarsus. Before God created the world, He knew that He would bring about these events as the “script” played out. Thus, people pursue their evil desires in a contra-causal fashion and God intervenes to disrupt those evil intentions as He had already ordained He would. So, God prevents Balaam cursing Israel, sends a dream to Abimelech so that he would not touch Sarah, and prevents the Jews from killing Jesus before the appointed time.

        So, it is that, in the course of time, a person sets his heart on evil – and does so with contra-causal freedom – and would pursue that evil except that God intervenes at times to accomplish that which he had ordained. So, we read that Stephan is stoned to death but Peter is released from prison. These acts were ordained by God before the creation of the world, but in the course of time, God intervenes to release Peter from prison.

        In the end, God’s plan determined according to His purpose and after the counsel of his own will – and therefore a perfect plan not in need of revision – is implemented exactly as He ordained (according to script).

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      7. brianwagner writes, “Logically man or angel cannot be held responsible for sins that they were scripted to do, and unable not to do, before they even came into existence.”

        I would like to see a logical argument that makes this case. I don’t think it exists. So, I think you just made that up.

        The problem here is twofold.

        (1) God’s knowledge of future actions of people cannot be shown to be the cause of those events. God’s knowledge of future events encompasses all the influences on a person leading to his contra-causal decision to sin. For example, God permits Satan to enter the garden to tempt Adam/Eve with the certain knowledge that Satan will entice them to sin. After all, God had already ordained that Christ die on the cross as a direct consequence of Adam/Eve’s sin (with even the Open Theist having to admit that).

        (2) That God is sovereign does not preclude people enjoying freedom of choice – contra-causal freedom. For the most part God freely permits people to sin – e.g., “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Even where God intervenes to prevent a person acting on their choices, contra-causal freedom is not negated; only the carrying out of one’s choices is affected. As an example, a person may desire to rob a bank, but the presence of armed guards can prevent him doing so but he is still contra-causally free.

        There is no logical argument that says that people cannot be held responsible for sins that God ordains they commit. Maybe you could be the first to actually develop that argument (as impossible as I think that effort to be)

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  25. brianwagner writes, “If you felt that my general observations (attacks) of Calvinism was meant as a personal attack, please forgive me…accept my apology!”

    Why say such things of Calvinists- “…[that they engage in] twisting of the normal presentation of gospel truth, it produces a lack of true compassion for and prayer for the souls of men” – if it were not meant as an attack? Is not the “normal” presentation of the truth just your view of the truth, so why not show that context in what you write – so that your comment should have been more like this “…twisting of the normal presentation of gospel truth as I believe that truth to be, it produces a lack of true compassion for and prayer for the souls of men at least as I understand “true” compassion” if no attack were intended.

    So, what are you apologizing for? That you intentionally misrepresented Calvinism or that you have no real idea what Calvinism is all about?

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    1. Ok then Roger, it seems that you understand that I was not being unkind to you as an individual, even though I truly was attacking Calvinism and believe it to be a harmful teaching! I am glad you can sense my concern for your edification.

      I am wondering however why you appear not to understand or even remember all the conversations we have had on this website, where I have presented the normal understanding of the Good News. That is the context of this our conversation but I can rehearse it again if you feel it will help other readers – God enlightens every man, convicts every man, draws every man because He loved everyone in the world so much that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, because He desires everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth of His salvation and never planned any to perish but that they all should be brought to an opportunity of repentance, so that each could be saved if they respond to God’s gracious call and become one of His elect, but if they hear His voice and harden their hearts they will never be saved. (John 1:9, 16:7-8, 12:32, 3:16; 1John 2:2; 1Tim 4:4; 2Pet 3:9; Matt 22:1-14; Heb 3:7-8).

      This is the normal understanding of the universal terminology used in these contexts and it takes the twisting by the theological position of Calvinism to remove that understanding to support a view of a god who before creation planned for only a few to be created to be saved and a majority to be created and then damned, and to make sure that such a majority would never be able to be enlightened, convicted, drawn, loved, called, forgiven, elect and saved! That is not Good News, by any “normal” understanding.

      As for your stance that contra-causal freedom can truly exist after everything has been predetermined so that nothing can ever change. I think that your breaking of the law of non-contradiction is obvious to anyone.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “As for your stance that contra-causal freedom can truly exist after everything has been predetermined so that nothing can ever change. I think that your breaking of the law of non-contradiction is obvious to anyone.”

        OK. What is the contradiction that results in the breaking of the law of non-contradiction? (Supposedly obvious to anyone but obviously not to everyone.)

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      2. brianwagner writes, “I am wondering however why you appear not to understand or even remember all the conversations we have had on this website, where I have presented the normal understanding of the Good News.”

        Let’s be clear here. Your “normal” understanding is built on certain presuppositions of which a key one is that God is not omniscient (particularly with respect to the future and who is saved). That creates a notable bias in what you then call, “normal.” What is “normal” to the Open Theist is not normal to one who is not Open Theist. However, I would like to look at some of the verses you cite and see if we are seeing the same things in the verses (which should be independent of other biases). I will use separate comments for each one to keep observations short and sweet.

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      3. Ok Roger, Here is the obvious breaking of that law of logic.

        Every event of the future is predetermined, even the choices of individual persons, including God AND contra-causal freedom of choice between true possibilities resulting in different possible events CANNOT both be true statements at the same time.

        According to your definition of omniscience, since all knowledge has its source in God, if God chose to eliminate all possibilities within His omniscience when He predetermined only one script for human history forever, including all His active an passive responses and all man’s active and passive responses, then there is no possible contra-causal freedom after that point, because there are no more possibilities.

        But the Scripture portrays a future with many parts left unscripted so that contra-casual freedom does truly exist and God is not tied to a predetermined script of His making, but is also free to interact personally with man, but not in anyway that would be against His nature.

        Blessings my friend!

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      4. brianwagner writes, “Every event of the future is predetermined, even the choices of individual persons, including God AND contra-causal freedom of choice between true possibilities resulting in different possible events CANNOT both be true statements at the same time.”

        As an aside, let’s us recall that you are an avowed Open Theist, so your Open Theist argument on this issue is that God is not omniscient making the future undetermined and unsettled. But, now you take off your Open Theist hat and argue, “You know, if I were not an Open Theist, I would argue thusly…” So, what value should we place on the position of an Open Theist arguing on behalf of those who are not Open Theists on the issue of the relationship between God’s determination of all things and man’s contra-causal freedom? Hmmmmm.

        You have made a statement of belief – actually your opinion given your Open Theist bent. You don’t offer a supporting argument for your conclusion; you just state what you believe as if that should mean something. It doesn’t really mean anything; it’s just your opinion as an outsider looking in. So here’s the situation.

        Given the truth of the statement that God is omniscient and knows all future events, then it must be true that the future is settled and all is certain and determined. However, God’s knowledge of all future events is not sufficient to cause those events. The causes and influences that bring about future events are part of God’s knowledge. The two are independent of each other; future events do not determine God’s knowledge and God’s knowledge does not determine future events.

        So, the issue is: Why can’t the two statements above be true? The answer: nothing prevents them both being true. Are you aware of a logical proof that anyone has developed that proves that the two statements cannot be true?? I suspect that you have not else you would have presented that proof here if only in an abbreviated form.

        So what have you presented to support your belief: Nothing. What exists to support your belief: Nothing. God’s determination of all futre events and the contra-causal freedom of people are compatible – there is no contradiction between the two.

        For the other side, we have “The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom,” by William Craig. Has anyone countered Craig’s argument? Not that I am aware.

        So, have you ever actually seen an argument for the position you have taken – a real argument?

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      5. You’re amazing Roger! I am liking you more all the time. You are certainly driven and dedicated. But I admit that I am perplexed why you avoid logical and biblical discussion even though you seem proficient in both. I clearly gave two statements that are opposite in meaning. Let the reader decide if you have broken the law of non-contradiction, even if you are unwilling to see it. You also have just used the logical fallacies of guilt by association (Open Theism) or appeal to authority (Craig).

        Though we are about the same age (I’m turning 60) and our memories may be going, I am sure in all our conversations that I have never avowed being an Open Theist. My guess is that you have “avowed” me as an Open Theist so much, you hear me saying it in your mind! 🙂 I can promise you Roger, that I will always avoid labels for myself and will not use them of others unless they seem to prefer it, and even not then sometimes if I think it is unhealthy for them. God bless you my friend!

        On a side note, did you see that there is a man with your name from the mid 16th century that espoused a moderate Calvinist view, I’m told?

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      6. brianwagner writes, “You also have just used the logical fallacies of guilt by association (Open Theism) or appeal to authority (Craig). ”

        If you are not Open Theist, you do a good imitation.

        The appeal was not to Craig as an authority but to a logical argument he developed showing that God’s knowledge of the future is compatible with human freedom. That such an argument exists is the important part. Contrast that with the argument from the other side to show that God’s knowledge of the future is not compatible with human freedom – that argument does not existent. You advocate something that has yet to be proven. You gave two statements that you cannot prove to be opposite in meaning – yet, you are firm in a belief that has no support other than your imagination.

        If there was a logical argument in support of your belief, wouldn’t you tell us?

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      7. Roger, I have already given you an argument that God’s knowledge of the future is consistent with contra-causal freedom without the predetermination of all things before creation, but we were not talking about that. We were talking about the Calvinist view that God limits His omniscience so that it would not include any knowledge of true possibilities after creation begins, and that such a choice of the predetermination of all things makes contra-causal freedom impossible because contra-causal freedom needs possibilities to exist.

        The future does not yet exist, so it must be defined based on the knowledge of God that comes from His omniscience. He is certainly powerful enough to Script an entire human history from all the possibilities that exist in His omniscience and then limit the future to one set of eventualities with no possibilities and thus with no contra-causal freedom available in that future. But He is certainly powerful enough to Script a future with only some eventualities so that possibilities and contra-causal freedom will continue to be available.

        I hope you agree that the future does not yet exist or we will be speaking past each other. I agree with you that God’s knowledge does not cause future events, it is rather His choice to limit His omniscience so that the future does not possess any true possibilities (and thus no contra-causal freedom) that becomes the cause of all future events, even sin, in the Calvinistic theology. He did not have to make that choice, nor would such a choice be consistent with His nature of righteousness, nor is such a choice taught anywhere in the Scripture. Instead the Scripture defines the future as some eventualities and some possibilities and true contra-causal freedom.

        In your view does God’s omniscience at this moment have any knowledge of true possibilities for different outcomes of anything in the future? Yes or No?

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      8. brianwagner writes, “We were talking about the Calvinist view that God limits His omniscience so that it would not include any knowledge of true possibilities after creation begins, and that such a choice of the predetermination of all things makes contra-causal freedom impossible because contra-causal freedom needs possibilities to exist.”

        I think this statement is a little confused.

        “We were talking about the Calvinist view that God limits His omniscience so that it would not include any knowledge of true possibilities after creation begins,…”

        Calvinism does not limit God’s omniscience; therefore there is only certainty after creation. It possibilities truly existed after creation, then God would not know all outcomes (God would be ignorant of certain things) and that ignorance would be a limitation on omniscience (God would not be omniscient). Prior to creation and before God settles on His plan, anything (relatively speaking) is a possibility. Once God makes His decisions, He then creates the world and sets His plan into motion which follows the script determined by God decisions.

        “…and that such a choice of the predetermination of all things makes contra-causal freedom impossible because contra-causal freedom needs possibilities to exist.”

        Contra-causal does not require possibilities in the strict sense but only as perceived to exist by the individual. As an example, a man wants to rob a bank so he gets his gear together and heads down to the bank. When he arrives, he sees armed guards all over the place and then decides not to rob the bank at that time. Ignoring all those factors that preceded and contributed to the man’s decision to rob the bank, we can see God having to do nothing to get the man to decide to rob the bank but then arranging for the armed guards to be present to keep the man from attempting the robbery. God knew beforehand that the man would decide to rob the bank; God knew beforehand that armed guards would be present. God had ordained these things – but God did not have to put the idea into the man’s head about robbing the bank, did not have to tempt him to desire to want to rob the bank, and did not have to coerce the man’s final decision; the man freely did these things from his perspective even though these actions were known to God and thereby determined from God’s perspective.

        There was always the “true” possibility that the man could have originally decided that he did not want to rob the bank or that the man could have tried anyway despite the presence of the armed guards. What contra-causal freedom cannot sort out are the effects of all the many factors that influence decisions that people make. People process scads of information to make decisions where one piece of information may not influence a person’s decision (e.g., the temperature on the day) but another piece may materially influence a decision (e.g., the presence of the armed guards).

        There is the continuing debate about whether true contra-causal freedom actually exists. So long as people are able to process information and make rational decisions, it will be difficult to understand the extent to which particular information determines a person’s decisions. However, there is no conflict between God’s knowledge of all things making such things certain and the contra-causal freedom that people perceive themselves to exercise.

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      9. brianwagner writes, “The future does not yet exist,…”

        This is true from man’s perspective. Whether it could be true for God is less certain; most people would conclude that God knows the future perfectly. Even you will have to admit that God does know that future that He will bring about. For example, the Bible tells us that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world. Because of this, God has His prophets write about this event (Isaiah 53, the Psalms) and Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples during his ministry what is going to happen to Him (He will be killed and rise the third day). God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream about the future and has Daniel explain it. So, it is certain that God knows some things in the future. The question is whether the statements in the Scriptures are strong enough to conclude that God knows the future perfectly. Most people would conclude that they are.

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      10. Roger,

        I appreciate your further interaction with me concerning divine predetermination of the future and how much biblical evidence there is to support it. I certainly agree with you that, as you said, “it is certain that God knows some things in the future. The question is whether the statements in the Scriptures are strong enough to conclude that God knows the future perfectly.” And I agree that “most people would conclude that God knows the future perfectly” which I assume you mean in its every detail. And I agree that God “does know that future that He will bring about.”

        But I think you would agree that most people also do not think their freedom of choice between possibilities is only a human perception. They believe that they do have contra-causal freedom for real, and that possibilities are for real. This makes Jesus’ prayer in the garden an interesting example – “If it be possible…”

        I do want to counter your conclusion that “If possibilities truly existed after creation, then God would not know all outcomes.” I say that He would know them fully and perfectly just as he knew them before creation, as possible outcomes. They would then become more limited in number by anything He does predetermine before and after creation and any laws of providence to which human history would be bound, except for God decisions to supernaturally intervene, of which He knows fully all possible outcomes. And I still think an omniscience that is defined as having knowledge of possibilities before creation is more complete than one defined with no knowledge of possibilities after creation, and that is why I said it would have to be viewed as an omniscience that is limited by God in the Calvinist view of the predetermination of all things.

        And I think your allusion to Rev 13:8 needs some refining. Though grammatically possible, it does not have to say that the Lamb was slain from (not before – the ESV is wrong to translate “before” here) the foundation of the world, but like 17:8, is should say that names of followers of the Antichrist were not written from the foundation of the world in the book of Life of the Lamb slain. It is still true that the Scripture confirms the redemptive plan of God started coming into focus on the day of the first sin (Gen 3:15). But it is only an assumption that everything was predetermined concerning the passion of Christ before creation. God in His omniscience knew perfectly knows all the possible outcomes for a passion before and after creation and each Scriptural prediction revealed confirms Divine limitation of those possibilities at least by those points in time when that predictions were made.

        I really appreciated the tone of your last posts as well. Thank you my friend!

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      11. brianwagner writes, ‘ I think you would agree that most people also do not think their freedom of choice between possibilities is only a human perception. They believe that they do have contra-causal freedom for real, and that possibilities are for real.”

        Of course, that is our perception. But is it true? No person is aware of the influences in their lives and how those influences affect their decisions. People obviously “think” they know what is happening; they don’t – so people are good witnesses on this issue.

        However, lets deal with the primary decision a person makes – that of salvation. A person with contra-causal freedom is able to take available information; weight pros and cons; and make a rational decision. So a person faced with a choice between eternal life and eternal life will consider the weight of the benefit of eternal life contrasted with the great loss from eternal death and choose eternal life. That is why the Bible tells us that people who chose death have had there wills compromised – e.g., Satan has blinded them; they have not heard the gospel; they cannot ‘hear.”

        Does contra-causal freedom exist? No one has been able to prove that it does – although experiments have been run regarding inconsequential choices that don’t prove anything. In major decisions – getting married; buying a house; salvation – decisions reflect information/emotions and people make rational decisions that reflect the information they have.

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      12. Good Morning Roger! Here then are two questions to keep the discussion going! Do you think the Scriptures are God’s revelation presented more according to His perception of reality according to Calvinism (everything predetermined before creation) or they are more according to man’s faulty perception of reality that there is true contra-causal freedom. Which has more clear verses and the tenor of Scripture in support, in your view, the predetermination of ALL things before creation or the predetermination of only SOME things before creation?

        And I know we have talked about and disagreed that there can be legitimate reasons why someone can be able to choose God’s will, like the invitation to everlasting life, and then still reject it. But let me look at it with you another way. I think you would agree that for true salvation there also has to be a conviction of sin and need for repentance. Here is a third question. Couldn’t God convict someone that they need to trust Him to remove their sins (lying, stealing, pride, etc) along with the offer of everlasting life, and though they be convinced of the truth of these offers, they might want the one, everlasting life, but not yet want to give up the pleasure of his sins yet?

        In my view, the Scripture teaches that they would still have been able to repent and accept Christ’s offer at that point, but if they reject, they may not be brought to that point again by God, but will still be justly found guilty for rejecting His mercy. You know one of my favorite verses in support of this – Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart!” 🙂

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      13. brianwagner refers to “…man’s faulty perception of reality that there is true contra-causal freedom.”

        Here is my understanding of contra-causal freedom. It is a concept, a bare bones idea, that nobody has ever really delved into. Those who promote this concept do not go into any real description or offer a proof of concept. Mostly, it is described by what it is not. Thus, where Calvinism would say that people make decisions based on their strongest desires, the contra-causal crowd would allow “strongest” desires to influence a decision but not determine that decision (How that could actually work is never discussed).

        People have the perception that they make choices. Whether people think they have “contra-causal” freedom is likely speculative – I doubt that most people ever think that deeply about their decisions. Those, like you perhaps, who think people actually have a sense that they have contra-causal freedom are presuming such – no one has done any research to substantiate this claim. However, if you ask people if they have contra-causal freedom, I would not be surprised if they said that they did – how would they really know?

        So are “,,,the Scriptures…God’s revelation presented more according to His perception of reality according to Calvinism (everything predetermined before creation)…”? I think the answer to this has to be, Yes. God is certainly the author of the Scriptures. In addition, Paul assures us that “All scripture…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Could this be true if Scripture reflected something less than God’s true understanding of reality [granted that there are parts of Scripture that accurate recall the actions of sinful people and should be understood in that context]? Can the Scriptures reflect man’s perception of reality? People have no conception of Satan’s influence in their lives (much less anything else); how can people’s understanding of reality support Paul’s claim? I don’t think it can; and I think it would be pretty much impossible to prove. I suspect none has tried to do so. If they have, I would love to have citations so I could read about it.

        I think you have presented a disjunctive fallacy as your contention that “…man’s faulty perception of reality that there is true contra-causal freedom” is not a true alternative – You have no idea that people really think this, and only admit such because they need to do so and could not, in such cases, explain what contra-causal freedom is.

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      14. brianwagner writes, “And I know we have talked about and disagreed that there can be legitimate reasons why someone can be able to choose God’s will, like the invitation to everlasting life, and then still reject it.”

        The issue for Calvinism is why anyone would reject eternal life. Their conclusion is that people must be Totally Depraved (with inability) and this leads to TULIP.

        The problem for your position is that you also want to include “true” contra-causal freedom. You posit, “…though they be convinced of the truth of these offers, they might want the one, everlasting life, but not yet want to give up the pleasure of his sins yet?” Is that even possible? The extreme contrast between eternal life and eternal death should make this impossible if the person has “true” contra-causal freedom. For such a person to choose eternal death, something must be wrong. This is exactly how the Scriptures portray the situation.

        “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.”

        “The foolishness of man perverts his way:”

        “…the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

        “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes:”

        “Wisdom is too high for a fool:”

        The unsaved person is described as a “fool;” it is his foolishness that helps to explain why he would reject salvation. The fool does not exercise “true” contra-causal freedom.

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      15. Roger, Thank you for giving me more insight on your view of predetermination and contra-causal freedom. I am glad you are working on delving deeper into this. Don’t you find it amazing that some important questions relating to predeterminations and contra-causal free acts are not addressed, though dogmatic positions still are taken based on the assumptions made about them both?

        I refuse to believe that you, Roger, have been predetermined not to see the logic of the description of reality that I was implying by my questions this morning. 🙂 I am sorry if you got the impression that I was saying Scriptures do not clearly give God’s perception of reality, and as I have mentioned to you before, all the commands, invitations, conditional statements and statements of God making new decisions in Scripture clearly give the perception of a reality with true contra-causal freedom, which most people innately feel they have. (But when you develop a good test to prove contra-causal freedom exists or doesn’t, let me know!) My question was to encourage seeing that God’s perception of reality, as I just described is Scripture, is opposite of someone saying the Scripture gives the perception that everything has been predetermined from before creation.

        I also refuse to believe, Roger, that you have been hardened beyond the point to be able to come to see how God is able to enable every one to make a decision for or against His offer of salvation without making it irresistible for a few and unavailable for most.

        We’ve had a long conversation on this page… you are welcome to have the last word here. I am sure we will meet again about some of these same things and others, my friend!

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      16. brianwagner writes, “(But when you develop a good test to prove contra-causal freedom exists or doesn’t, let me know!)”

        It’s not up to me to do this since Calvinist theology does not rely on Contra-causal freedom. It is the non-Calvinist who must both describe what contra-causal freedom and show that it is a valid concept. That has not been done.

        So, where are we in the discussion? Here’s my take:

        1. The non-Calvinist relies on the concept called contra-causal freedom which they do not describe except to say what they want it to be. Consequently, a theology is built on a foundation with a presumption that cannot be shown to be true.

        2. The non-Calvinist presumes that God’s foreknowledge of future events is not compatible with human freedom (as they define human freedom). They cannot show a causal link between knowledge of future actions and human freedom that would suggest that an incompatibility exists. On the other side, an argument has been developed that shows that God’s knowledge of the future has no causal link to human freedom and does not affect human freedom so that the two are compatible. Consequently, a theology is built on a foundation with a second presumption that cannot be shown to be true.

        3. The non-Calvinist presumes that people with “true” contra-causal freedom must be able to reject salvation despite the irrationality of such a decision (irrational decision making would mean no true contra-causal freedom). Consequently, a theology is built on a foundation with a third presumption which, if true, destroys the theological foundation on which the theology is built.

        In the end, non-Calvinist theology relies on “what if” scenarios that cannot be shown to be true but the non-Calvinist finds himself forced to argue these positions in order to oppose Calvinism.

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  26. Rhutchin,

    You still have not answered my question: so I will ask you again: are you saying that non-calvinsts who use the puppet analogy are not saved?

    Don’t engage in another evasive reply, I want a direct reply from you on this.

    Instead of answering my question you were evasive and went back and forth even falsely accusing Brian of being an open theist.

    So just answer the question rhutchin.

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    1. Robert asks, “are you saying that non-calvinsts who use the puppet analogy are not saved?”

      It depends on intent. If a person actually knows what Calvinism is all about so that the puppet analogy is a purposeful, malicious attempt to malign Calvinism falsely, then I don’t think they are saved. If the person is basically ignorant of Calvinism and just uses the analogy because other people use it and he does not know better, then I see no reason to say he is a non-Christian.

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  27. Hi Leighton,

    Have you considered writing a post on addressing those who accuse you of Semi-Pelagianism? I think it would be cool to see you hash out the difference between your view and the view they are accusing you of.

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  28. The implication of salvation by lesser light disturbs me, not because I don’t wish it were true, but because it makes Romans 10:14 seem entirely superfluous, and the Gospel call, not vital for salvation, but just some helpful add-on material that you don’t truly need. I am an Arminian but I feel this is a failed way to defend Arminianism. Calvinistic determinism has such a strength of argument precisely because we know both intuitively and from the Word that not everyone gets a fair chance—masses of people can be affected unfairly by one man’s sin. You simply cannot make God “look better” morally under Arminiamism if there is one person anywhere who didn’t get a fair, even and honest chance to choose Christ—and we know that happens. The Arminian often falls back to God “judging by lesser light” which then makes the Gospel seem hardly necessary, in fact, even a bad thing to preach. Just as abortion is a great evangelistic effort if babies are conceived regenerated, so does preaching the Gospel end up in the judgment of more people, since they could have scraped by with “lesser light” and found salvation somehow.

    The Calvinist is not stupid in this regard, and knows the Arminian is simply overplaying his hand by trying to claim that Arminianism gets God “off the hook” of the moral dilemma of looking simply, well, negligent, of looking precisely like a bad physician who has let most of his hospital become sick but not receive the medicine of Christ. And if we don’t really need that medicine anyway, if we can get saved by “lesser light” without knowing Christ, what in the world is the point or urgency of the Gospel message at all? Scripture simply declares that “lesser light” will not save, only faith in Christ will save. We still have the problem, even with bringing in free will, of God looking like a mighty bad parent, letting millions be lost because of one man’s sin. If we are to take a strict approach to how Scripture says we are born again, we simply cannot insist that the “free will” of untold millions of lost souls who never knew nor heard about Christ had a fair chance, or even any chance at all, to accept him. This is the ugly hidden truth that drives the power behind Calvinism, in my opinion. If I simply say “Everything God wants happens exactly the way he wants it,” I can rid myself of any insecure feeling about God’s character by simply saying “Well, they were all vessels of wrath, and I’m the chosen.” Otherwise I’m basically just believing that I got really, really lucky to find Christ and God is powerless to stop the injustice of people being lost who never even had a choice—and one of those might have been me.

    Scripture in the end gives us this dilemma but doesn’t attempt to solve the paradox—it simply says believe these certain promises, and you will be saved. Leave the rest to the Judge of all the Earth who will do right… but not a right that we may think is right. Doesn’t the first commandment indicate that our very offenses about the ways of God can become an idol? And at least the Calvinist has that point right, God’s holiness is above our desire for him to be equally merciful to all. I’m not sure it’s a very effective defensive to say everyone, everywhere gets some chance at salvation. I don’t think it’s even Scriptural. People know in their heart of hearts not everyone gets the same chance to born again such as they had, or the same measure of grace and mercy, and many fall away exactly because of that, including those I’ve known personally—otherwise it drives them into the errors of some from of universalism or annihilationism. Total depravity doesn’t mean God forces people to be unable to respond—but it might mean that God’s judgment on one person leaves others in blindness and sin. To quote my review on Austin Fischer’s book as it relates to the topic at hand:

    His main argument is threefold:
    1. If God is only all about his own glory, it means this overshadows his attribute of love.
    2. Because God loves one individual he must love another as well to be consistent.
    3. The work of the cross shows God’s essential nature is love.

    For a Calvinist it’s perfectly okay for God not to love some of his creation (even though for an Arminian, God once loved even Satan; in fact we might assume being the most exalted angel he was very special to God). This argument just won’t be compelling to Calvinists who already understand and have dealt with this idea. Indeed many times they are what drove them to Calvinism, not away, as in the author’s case; because they neatly resolve the problem of evil by simply saying God purposely decreed it to display his wrath, and in some his redemption. The author says the Calvinistic God is power without love, but surely predestination includes at least some love. We believe God has empathy, but we don’t believe his emotions are weak like human beings, nor that this dictates his attributes. And if God makes people somehow deserving of hell, the author can stand at the gates of hell and still say “all ye who enter here deserve it” under Calvinism, even though he says he would have no justifying logic. The author makes much of God’s love in Christ, and I found it truly inspiring, as any Christian should. And I personally believe God truly wanted every creation he made to prosper, to never sin or be punished.

    Using imagery from Auschwitz, he draws a parable of a one little child in a movie about it that stands out with a red coat, and much later is seen dead amongst the others. To him this represents those damned by God. Arminians can say, God never wanted it in any way to happen, and that’s a crucial difference. But they can’t say that lost people don’t happen. The book admits Christ says some harsh things but uses emotional pictures and argumentation to bring out the part of our emotions that basically feels sorry for people. And under all theologies we just have to come to the place where Christ says, “If you love the girl with the little red coat more than me, you are not worthy of me.” And the only proper answer is “This is hard saying, who can accept it… to whom else can we go… you have the words of eternal life.” But this is not the author’s solution to the problem of evil and suffering. This girl haunts us all, Arminian and Calvinist alike. (Corrie ten Boom, who witnessed these atrocities in person, compared it to a suitcase that was simply to heavy for us to hold.) So this argument fails because Arminianism falls under a similar critique, in that we can’t truly believe everyone has a complete legitimate grace-filled choice for God, the way say, Peter had.

    So again we have the seeming partiality of God, even though it says he shows no partiality (it must mean something different then). And when he says “Have I not chosen you the twelve,” isn’t he saying he showed at least some kind of partiality, unless we say it was only based on something he saw in them; but then why Judas. Arminians can tell themselves things like “everyone is judged by the light they have” but do they really think that everyone had a clear and legitimate choice to believe the Gospel? Even Romans says they can’t hear without a preacher to bring the good news. So again, does God’s main character being love invalidate Arminianism as well? Even though Christ displayed the ultimate amount of love, what meaning is that to people that never benefit from it? This conundrum is in the very Gospel itself, not just Calvinism, and predestination seems to be part and parcel of redemption.

    Where was God when Jesus was crucified, the author asks, wanting us to see that God’s heart was in Christ. But even though this is true, the obvious answer which jumps out to me is “where else… but on his throne as always.” Yet the author doesn’t give us this option. And the author tries to make his argument from the total revelation of God in Christ the man. But neglects to emphasize how Christ distinguished the Father from himself in many ways; and how the very suffering Christ endured shows there is an element of God that is not only and merely love. How even Christ said “Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Did Jesus de-emphasize sin, holiness and judgment? I think not. God has every right to ask of us things we cannot do, to declare that he is loving and good even though things happen that make us feel he cannot be so, to be, in a word, Holy. After all the angels don’t cry “Love! Love! Love!” before God’s throne. The author says Calvinism appeals to mystery, and this is bad. But all theology ultimately does (Job). So it just seems like he’s arguing from his own sense of justice, the very thing Romans condemns.

    To the Calvinist, the idea of God losing anything he really wants, feels less than sovereign. Indeed to all of us it feels quite scary. I mean he’s God. We introduce free will to say how it could happen. If everyone had a clear choice, we could say God was fair, but the Bible teaches clearly the choices of one person can affect the destinies of other people, and that certainly doesn’t feel just to us; yet still it is a system conditional on free will, just not each person’s individual free will, necessarily. And in this way Calvinism also neatly deals with our feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and sin by saying we can just rest in whatever slots God has for us. Indeed this is the real strength of Calvinism: it deals with the problem of evil and our own feelings of insecurity in one neat blow. So the logical problem really moves from a good God can’t allow evil, into a good God can’t intend evil, which although it still is a huge problem, is a lot different in nature. It says God put some things out of his control for whatever reasons were important enough to him, and this Calvinism denies, Calvinism moves the intention for evil itself back into the decree of God, even though they will deny that they do.

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    1. Hi Dizerner! And I thought Roger, Robert and Roy were the only long-winded ones on this site! 🙂 I do appreciate your thoughtful consideration of a tough question. Instead of “lesser light” as being insufficient light, how about considering how salvation was accomplished in the OT and what was the “gospel” back then. Abraham had lesser light than we do, but the gospel He believed was sufficient (Gen 15:6). The word “gospel” is even used to describe what Israel in the wilderness was to believe (Heb 4:2). Of course Abraham and Israel had lesser light than we do in those “gospels”. But it was sufficient.

      So how about those outside of the old covenant relationship? I find Elihu’s words illuminating, if you are willing to accept them (Job 33:14-30). I see him saying that God works with everyone two or three times using dreams, sickness, and messengers to draw them to trust His righteousness. That’s a gospel understanding in my thinking. Paul said clearly that from creation God’s plans and intention have been for everyone to seek that they might find Him (Acts 17:26-27). Would it not be possible for God to personally, by His Spirit, strive with each man at least once using creation and conscience (Rom 1, 2) to draw man to a place where he would be enabled to call out, “Creator God, be merciful to me a sinner”? Would that be sufficient light for salvation in your thinking?

      It appears that such faith is all that is necessary according to Jesus (Luke 18:13-14). So when you asked about Rom 10:14, what do you think about Paul’s answer in 10:18 and his quote from Psalm 19 pointing to general revelation? I don’t personally believe general revelation works pre-salvation grace sufficiently on its own, but the God intimately does use it, sufficiently, at certain times to give each person an opportunity to move towards or even be confronted by the “gospel” (cf, Col 1:6, 23). In my thinking, this even enlightens one enough to pray a sufficient “sinner’s prayer” trusting in God’s mercy and righteousness.

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      1. Thanks Brian, for your response. I’m a little hard on myself—a little wary of my own desire to shift the markers as much as I can for salvation so that more are included. Now I think that’s the Christian’s nature—we’ve found a deep desire for others’ salvation in our own. But this also can color are thinking in ways we might not be so keenly aware of—indeed I think a lot of error comes from things we desire to be true. I’ve never heard, for example, a heresy where every single human is going to hell. 😛 Now why I mention that is, because I think I will get more accuracy out of Scripture, if I approach it both more sincerely and more disciplined. Maybe you feel that you’re already far exceeding me in that regard. 🙂 It’s so difficult because, well, none of us want to judge another person’s motives, yet we all know we probably aren’t as purely motivated as we should be.

        Yes, it brings us to OT salvation, a difficult topic; and what kind of faith, exactly puts a human being in Christ. And Scriptures like “in all nations whoever works righteousness is accepted by him,” or “God has overlooked these times of ignorance in the past.” Yet was Cornelius saved when Peter preached the Gospel to him? What does it mean that “Now God commands men everyone to repent and turn to him.” My own father never knew exactly when he got saved; he passed away recently at the age of 72. And I always felt, if a person begins to wonder about the requirements for salvation, if it becomes a slippery slope. I mean I’m sure we’d both agree “better safe than sorry” applies there. But what do we lose, when we water down the Gospel? Anything? I mean we’d both agree the Bible says *some* people aren’t saved, I’m sure.

        But if it’s not faith in Christ that saves, does it seem like we humans just love to set up our own standards of moralism? How can we consider our own ethical standards sufficient to gaze into the fog of God’s holiness? Because our Aunt Maltilda might seem like an incredibly nice and caring old lady, but God says our sin is so horrific it sent his Son bleeding on a cross and taking his wrath. If we admit that milestone, that really and truly none of us *deserve* salvation, we’ve made a significant leap out of moralism—but then we face the fact that, if God gave us a gift, why can’t everyone have it. What really does put a person in Christ. And *can* anyone ever sincerely and truly say “God have mercy on me a sinner” without the accompanying grace in the knowledge that Christ died and rose again on their behalf?

        We are told people were righteous in the Bible, who seemingly knew not of Christ’s unique work on the cross. And I’m sure you know that I don’t think anything is impossible with God, that’s not the issue—rather the issue is the truth God himself reveals. Paul’s answer in Romans 10:18 was describing the Gospel’s having historically at that time been preached all throughout the known Gentile world. He says clearly in verse 17 “our report” so I don’t think there’s much of a case for general revelation in this particular passage. In fact, Paul seems to be specifically arguing *against* the sufficiency of general revelation in verses 14-17, leading up to 18. He very clearly implies that people cannot call on someone they have not heard about. Verses 18-21 detail the responses that Paul has felt he and his fellow evangelists had received from the Jews and Gentiles, respectively.

        I won’t be so arrogant as to say I feel I have it all figured out. I believe God has saved some people through a basic understanding of grace that did not include the specifics of the work of Christ. I do believe there are clear Scriptural indications that less people, rather than more, will be in Christ, than our empathetic soul might imagine. So it seems to me that preaching a strong salvific message, rather than a watered down one, will be both more true to Scripture, and more beneficial to others. And when Leighton above writes “Everyone has what they need to respond to God” I’m just not sure I can get on board biblically speaking.

        Even Christ said the strongman must be bound to steal his goods, and that takes someone stronger. I’m just not sure that say, the Amorite high priest that James White is so very fond of, really did have that one moment of clarity where he looked around and thought “what have I done against a holy God?!” Perhaps it’s delving into those mysteries that belong to the Lord our God, but Christ did say it was his Spirit that was the light of the world, and a night was coming when no man could work. Nor was Sodom and Gomorrah seemingly excused simply because if they had Christ working miracles, they would have repented. I appreciate though, your soft tones, soft heart and willingness to engage.

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      2. I appreciate your courtesy also Dizerner. You interacted with one of the verses I mentioned, but not the others. I would be interested in your thoughts if you have the time.

        You said – “And *can* anyone ever sincerely and truly say “God have mercy on me a sinner” without the accompanying grace in the knowledge that Christ died and rose again on their behalf? ” But that is exactly what Jesus said the tax collector did (Luke 18:13-14) and was “justified”.

        We have more information of how God’s mercy takes care of our sin (the death, burial and resurrection of Christ). But that does not mean we totally understand it. God separated from God for my sin… huh? It’s all about trust that God will give me His righteousness and be merciful to me. Calling out to Him for those things is praying in the “name of Jesus” in my view, even if you don’t pronounce those two syllables “Je-sus” in our prayer or even though we don’t know that is the proper name for God’s mercy and righteousness (1Cor 1).

        Paul’s passage in Rom 10:11-18 is universal for Jew and Gentile, and it is hard for me to not see his appeal in vs 18 to Ps 19 as an appeal to General Revelation and back to Rom 2 where those who do not have the law will be judged “according to” Paul’s gospel. Some say it is because they reject the light that would draw them to a fuller gospel presentation. I lean, though not dogmatically, that God gives enough info to make a soul saving prayer, and in the judgment He will remind each of those personal moments when He drew their attention to Himself through general revelation (Rom 1, 2; Job 33:14-30). They will be without excuse.

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      3. No doubt they will be without excuse. But an excuse that *we* think is justified? Will anyone be without an excuse that *we* would accept? Will God be sure to satisfy *my* sense of justice and *yours*? That sense that is fallen through sin?

        Now I think we should change this verse:
        to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.

        Into:
        to open their eyes a little bit more so they may turn from lesser light to some nice bright light that they may receive… um well they already some forgiveness and sanctification but a bit more and… well more of an inheritance in me than they already have.

        You see I’m feeling the need to draw a bit of a line in the sand. When you say “It’s all about trust that God will give me His righteousness and be merciful to me” under the assumption that anyone has the understanding and desire to do that, my imagination just gets me carried away with scenarios where that hardly seems plausible. I know Christians love to use Romans 1 to say everyone clearly knows there’s a God yet I think Romans 1 also indicates the loss of revelation over time through continued sin—generational hardness and loss of revelational knowledge once possessed. There is even a culture that has no notion of a Supreme being… yet we don’t *really* need to bring them the Gospel because they don’t even need the two syllables “Je” and “sus” to get saved. I think that idea would have come as a real surprise to Paul.

        You say:
        But that is exactly what Jesus said the tax collector did (Luke 18:13-14) and was “justified”.

        It seems to me a big assumption in the story that the man had no exposure to the Judaistic faith. Can we really assume this is, say, some Iroquois native telling the Sky God that his paths are crooked? I suppose it’s possible, but to read that into this parable, instead of the culture in which it was spoken, seems a bit presumptuous.

        You say:
        it is hard for me to not see his appeal in vs 18 to Ps 19 as an appeal to General Revelation and back to Rom 2 where those who do not have the law will be judged “according to” Paul’s gospel

        I read Romans 2 differently than that. I know your view is a common interpretation but I believe it’s in error and pretty much bordering on works righteousness. Paul in Romans 2:12-16 is speaking of Gentile Christians, who have been born again. Consider that he says they instinctively do the things of the Law and have the Law written on their hearts. Then, just a little bit later Paul emphatically says “We have *already* charged both Jew and Gentiles that they are all under sin.” Oh, Paul, except those guys, you know, you just talked about that all obey the Law out of general revelation? No, the whole point of everything up to now has been that without saving grace, man cannot attain righteousness. But moralists and works righteousness preachers will probably keep attempting to utilize that passage to preach salvation through good works until Christ comes.

        You say:
        I would be interested in your thoughts if you have the time.

        Of course. Genesis 15. Abraham believed God. Abraham heard the words of God. Hebrews 4:2. Israel didn’t believe God. Israel heard the words of God. Job 33… God speaks in a vision. I believe it’s one way he calls people to himself and his truth. Research the story of Samuel Morris, one of my favorite of all time. Muslims constantly have visions of Christ saying “I am the way.” All I can say is these visions must lead to salvific truth. Acts 17. Yes, I believe any person can seek God, and God will answer them if they don’t give up. That’s my own personal conviction. I do think we need a tremendous amount of grace to do that. Col. 1:6, 23. Says pretty clearly that it’s the Gospel message bearing fruit, not lesser light bearing fruit. Also says we must “continue in the faith firmly established” which I positively don’t see how you could argue is true, if lesser light will do.

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      4. brianwagner writes (in response to Dizerner), Paul’s passage in Rom 10:11-18 is universal for Jew and Gentile, and it is hard for me to not see his appeal in vs 18 to Ps 19 as an appeal to General Revelation and back to Rom 2 where those who do not have the law will be judged “according to” Paul’s gospel. Some say it is because they reject the light that would draw them to a fuller gospel presentation. I lean, though not dogmatically, that God gives enough info to make a soul saving prayer,…”

        General revelation cannot convict a person of their sin – so you would have to incorporate the conviction of the Holy Spirit into general revelation. But general revelation also does not tell a person about Christ – gained from the preaching of the word which is also the source of faith – faith being the basis for justification.

        It may be that, before the cross, a Jew (or a gentile convert) might enter the temple and plead for forgiveness. However, after the cross, even the Jew must now humble himself before Christ – a stumbling block for the Jew.

        So, can a person voice a soul saying prayer absent a gospel presentation of Christ? It does not seem that it can (even if it could actually occur – as none seek God; the Jew not according to righteousness). The tax collector was a Jew, so he might have some incentive to pray as Christ depicted but does that work after the cross? If it would, why the heavy emphasis by Paul that one must believe in Christ to be saved?

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      5. Hi Dizerner –

        You said – “I know Christians love to use Romans 1 to say everyone clearly knows there’s a God yet I think Romans 1 also indicates the loss of revelation over time through continued sin—generational hardness and loss of revelational knowledge once possessed. There is even a culture that has no notion of a Supreme being…” But Romans 1 says clearly that God has made in plain “in” them using creation. There is no indication that He did this just once or for one generation only to be lost in subsequent generations. The impression I get (from Acts 17, since “He is not far from anyone”) that He does this with each person. He wants each person to seek and find. John 1:9 confirms this also.

        I may have been unclear about Jesus example in Luke 18:14. I was not assuming he had no exposure to Judaism, but neither was I assuming that he was calling out to God based on it. His prayer is simple and Jesus declaration of his salvation firm. He certainly was not praying in Jesus’ name, and that is why I started this discussion showing that the OT “gospel” was sufficient though a “lesser” light than the NT gospel.

        Again, I may have been unclear about Rom 2. You said – “No, the whole point of everything up to now has been that without saving grace, man cannot attain righteousness. But moralists and works righteousness preachers will probably keep attempting to utilize that passage to preach salvation through good works until Christ comes.” I agree. But wouldn’t the law on their hearts be sufficient, used by the HS, to convict them as sinners so that they could cry out for mercy?

        You recognized that God saved Abraham and Israel based on faith in a message. Are you saying that since there is now more information available of how God saves through His mercy that we need to know all those certain details, or is just trusting in the one detail – His mercy – and not our works sufficient? You point out that God is still using the similar methods that Elihu mentioned (“to deliver from the pit” 33:30). I believe we will be surprised at the judgment how “successful” God was in giving every man an opportunity for repentance (2Pet 3:9). Have you ever read Richardson – Eternity in Their Hearts, or how Christianity existed in the courts of Genghis Khan?

        The Greek word for “comes” in Col 1:6 actually means “is present”. In verse 23 the gospel is mentioned as already preached to everyone! I hope this is of some help.

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      6. You say:
        There is no indication that He did this just once or for one generation only to be lost in subsequent generations.

        It’s a complicated exposition that does take other verses into account. We should begin this as a new discussion if we take it up.

        You said:
        He certainly was not praying in Jesus’ name, and that is why I started this discussion showing that the OT “gospel” was sufficient though a “lesser” light than the NT gospel.

        Wait, so you don’t think that the religion of Judaism adds anything spiritually to a person? You know the Torah was consistently called a light right? Whether this tax collecter was exposed to the Torah makes a *huge* difference in my opinion.

        You say:
        But wouldn’t the law on their hearts be sufficient, used by the HS, to convict them as sinners so that they could cry out for mercy?

        The Law can *only* be written on the heart by grace and through Christ. Otherwise it’s a ministry of death to condemnation.

        You said:
        Are you saying that since there is now more information available of how God saves through His mercy that we need to know all those certain details, or is just trusting in the one detail – His mercy – and not our works sufficient?

        Do you think God’s Word saying anything about greater responsibility or judgment with greater light? That should be the real focus here. Can God’s people perish through lack of knowledge or not? Because Christ said one greater than Solomon was here, but you seem to say the Word of God is hardly necessary at all, since anyone, anywhere can simply immediately understand all essential truths. Have I misread you on that?

        You said:
        Have you ever read Richardson – Eternity in Their Hearts

        Yes, I have. It was an interesting book. But another point is *preparation* for the Gospel, not a fundamental lack of true need for it.

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      7. Hi Dizerner: I think I must be not making myself clear. Either that or you are too comfortable with your view of this issue! 🙂 Let me back up a little. Do you agree that the word “gospel” is used in the NT for the OT info that is necessary to believe for salvation (Heb 4:2) and that the OT info could correctly be called “lesser light” than the NT info for the gospel? And do you agree that John 1:9 and Acts 27:26-27 indicate that God is working with every man to be enabled to seek and find Him? If so, then the question becomes, what is the minimal info that God can use when He personally enlightens and convicts an individual to lead them to call out to Him for mercy. Does creation and conscience hold enough information for God to use that way?

        I am not saying that creation and conscience can do the work on their own, for neither do I believe that OT or NT expressions of the gospel, in spoken or written form, can do the work on their own. I believe God has to individually enlighten and convict using that information.

        Judaism does add more information than just what is given in creation or conscience. Granted. But Jesus does not bring the knowledge of that OT information into the story of the taxcollector. He doesn’t even use the word “Lord” in the sinner’s prayer which would have pointed to the Jehovah of the OT.

        You said: “The Law can *only* be written on the heart by grace and through Christ. Otherwise it’s a ministry of death to condemnation.” Romans 2:15, I think you would agree, has the law of God “written” in all men’s consciences, and you are correct that its ministry is only condemnation before salvation takes place.

        You asked – “Do you think God’s Word saying anything about greater responsibility or judgment with greater light? That should be the real focus here. Can God’s people perish through lack of knowledge or not? Because Christ said one greater than Solomon was here, but you seem to say the Word of God is hardly necessary at all, since anyone, anywhere can simply immediately understand all essential truths. Have I misread you on that?”

        Yes I think I am being misread. That may be my fault. 🙂 God’s word is necessary! I am just believing that He can deliver it personally using creation (Ps 19, Rom 1) and conscience (Gen 6, Rom 2) by His interaction through His Spirit using those messages. Your allusion to Hos 4:6 is trying to prove too much, I think. Hosea is saying God’s people are destroyed for rejecting the knowledge they have. They have it in their heads but lack it in their hearts. And I do agree with you that those who have had more opportunity, through more head knowledge and more Spirit conviction, will be judged more harshly for their rejection.

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      8. Okay. I mean I’ve heard stories of amazingly sovereign conversions out of nowhere, like Samuel Morris. Yet there’s a real mystery in why some people seem to get more grace that’s hard to ignore. It could be a form of election. And just a simple logical problem is—why don’t we see more spiritual fruit in areas without the Gospel. Shouldn’t the Spirit be working there too? You might argue that there is an equal proportion of spiritual fruit to that in the church, In this day and age it might be hard to argue against that :D. Although one thing about Romans 1—it says clearly “For God has made it known to them.” To me, that shows the Spirit must do some work. And I know the passage really looks like everyone gets that—yet I’ve seen seemingly countless people that will swear on their mother’s grave that God just isn’t real to them or they’d believe. And frankly I get tired of some Christian apologists calling all atheists liars and fools, even when for all intents and purposes they seem 100% sincere. Would you say that’s an okay thing to do? Because I know, as real as God is to me now, there was a time when I really felt unsure. And if I really and sincerely felt unsure that motivates me to think maybe Romans 1 has been exegeted a bit sloppy. You do talk about moments of truth, and I think that’s true—I’ve seen it in people. Moments when they know they’re experiencing something, and then ignore it. I certainly don’t think it’s Christlike to call atheists liars and fools ala Romans 1 and Psalms, yet I would say—the human heart is deceitful above all things. And it’s fairly clear if we don’t love the truth God gives us over to a lie.

        Here’s the real rub for me—there may be mystery conversions with lesser light but I don’t feel comfortable preaching about it. Like Calvinism, lesser light is a doctrine that reduces evangelistic fervor. And there’s one clear thing I see in Scripture that I at least hope you’d agree with—we are to preach and believe the Gospel. And that Gospel says believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and though shalt be saved. If I don’t need “Je” and “sus” (whether it’s true or not) that’s not the Gospel in the Bible. The Gospel in the Bible requires Je and Sus. It does simply too much violence to Scripture to take that away. I’m comfortable leaving the mysteries with God, but I’m not comfortable ever saying men don’t need the Gospel. It may seem like a paradox but it’s simply what God’s Word tells me.

        Great discussion! Thanks and God bless.

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      9. Good Morning Dizerner! Let me say that I read your last post twice just to make sure my words would not be based on first impression. I appreciate all that you just expressed and have those same questions. There is only one point I may take a little different view, but not without maintaining similar concerns.

        I agree with your evaluation of much of apologetics, and unfortunately it is also too true of the polemics that we see on sites like this one. It is a sin to call someone a fool, I believe, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:22. And saying, God’s Word says – “The fool hath said…” to an atheist is often meant to convey, and is often taken, as a personal judgment, which in my mind is the same thing as directly calling them a fool. Similar tactics of how some of us interact with professing Christian brothers (whom we are commanded to not count as enemies) gives the clear impression that this is exactly what we are calling them, “enemies”. It is so refreshing to interact with you, Dizerner, who consciously avoids such tactics. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition…” (2Tim 2:24-26)

        I am not certain if the lesser light doctrine I am presenting produces less evangelistic fervor like Calvinism certainly does. I had the privilege of working with the Lord on the mission field of Ireland for 12 years (84-96). “What about those who have never heard” was a frequent question by young believers and non-believers seeking. I felt that being able to confirm that God is merciful and just to give everyone personally a “visitation”, maybe even more than once (Elihu says three) to at least get them to start seeking or even to be able to stop trusting their false works religion and to cry out for mercy from their creator, was an answer that helped.

        But I would follow up by saying – Just look at how often people reject the gospel right here where you living with so much more light! God wants us to join Him where He is working already and give the gospel message that He came personally, physically to this earth and paid for all their sin. His name (character and reputation in which to trust) is Jesus! The more opportunities there are, the more knowledge there is, the more conviction and drawing of God’s Spirit they will receive. God desires them all to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth!

        I found such a challenge for evangelism helped balance any misunderstanding from promoting God’s sufficient justice and mercy for those who had not yet heard the NT story of the gospel. If we have God’s heart for the lost we would want to be out there working with Him, whether next door or across the globe, praying for those necessary moments of conviction and enlightenment, for just creation and conscience are not enough on their own.

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      10. brianwagner writes, “I had the privilege of working with the Lord on the mission field of Ireland for 12 years (84-96). ”

        Given what Ireland just did, that must be a little frustrating.

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      11. It is definitely very sad, Roger, when people reject God’s will and truth in their personal lives and in their society. Ireland had been dominated by a false Christianity for centuries that had undermined the authority of God’s Word. This is another evidence of their rejection.

        Thankfully Roger it had also produced greater opportunity for many of the Irish to discern true Christianity. During my time there it was sad also to know that so many Calvinist brothers were just across the northern border, but so few felt the responsibility of bringing the gospel to the millions lost under Catholicism in the south!

        Like

    1. I enjoyed your article Kingswood! I lean towards seeing a sufficiency in God’s use of creation and conscience, not just for unbelieving Jews, but for all mankind, to make a gospel commitment of faith. You can read some of my thoughts above. Here is a repost of some of what I said –

      I personally believe God gives everyone at some point, enough enlightenment and conviction the ability and opportunity to call upon God for mercy to remove the guilt and habits of their sin and to deliver them into His presence after death. That is faith in the “gospel” in my understanding of Scriptures. This is based on Scriptures that speak of God’s universal enlightenment and conviction, creation and conscience, and God’s making of it all plain enough so that man is without excuse. He makes plain, at least once, (and perhaps three times in life, cf. Job 33:14-29) His Godhead, their sin, coming judgment, and their need to cast themselves upon Him for mercy.

      Anyone brought to that moment of repentance by God, even if only through His active use of creation and conscience to call them, becomes enabled to cry out – “God be merciful to me a sinner” and to go their way justified, as Jesus confirmed (Luke 18:14). But if they hear the gospel, this way, (cf. Rom. 10:18), they must respond at that moment, or God may not draw their attention to it again through creation and conscience. “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart!”

      Like

      1. Thanks, Brian. Great that you read it and liked it. I agree that God gives sufficient revelation to all mankind through various means including creation and conscience. Thanks for your work in doing so many comments on this website.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. In your paper: “The point is that the proclamation of creation is sufficient to ensure that everyone reaches step 3, which makes step 4 a possibility for everyone (thanks to the enabling of the spirit-filled word of Christ – see the previous post). On judgement day, no non-Christian will be able to lay any blame on God that they never heard the word of Christ, even if they never met a human evangelist.” Then, in the referenced paper, “The reason is that, despite the situation that we don’t seek God, God seeks us! The spirit-breathed word of God comes to us and enters our hearts. With the word of God in our hearts, our hearts are opened so that we “can do it”.

      The four steps:
      1. Preacher is sent to them
      2. Preacher preaches the word of Christ to them
      3. They hear the word of Christ
      4. They believe in Christ
      5. They call on Christ

      I take you to mean that “The spirit-breathed word of God comes to us and enters our hearts,” through the proclamation of creation and the preaching of the gospel. Thereby, everyone “can” believe.

      Yet, you explain, “It is possible to hear the word but not believe it. Such a person has been given all they need to believe, but they choose to disobey the gospel by not putting their trust in Christ.”

      The reason for this, “Due to our sinful natures, we are naturally inclined against listening to the proclamation of the word of Christ, so we don’t usually see it for what it really is.”

      In the end, it seems that people do not believe because they are totally depraved.

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      1. Total depravity is really about the state of man in his fallen state when God is not speaking to him. In this state, man will not turn to God or seek forgiveness. However, God does not leave us in this state but seeks us, which is why there are some people who trust in him. When God is seeking someone, the work of God’s word and spirit changes the situation from that of total depravity to a situation in which he is able to respond.

        The last quote from me you gave is saying that we don’t usually see the proclamation of the creation as being the word of Christ. This doesn’t mean that we never see it as being the word of Christ or that we are never able to respond to it, or that the word of Christ does not come to us in other ways as well.

        The question is why do some not believe while others do believe, and we need to consider more than just total depravity to answer that. What Paul is showing in Romans 9:30-10:21 is that the non-Christian ethnic Israelites have been given all they needed to believe, with God even continuing to hold out his hands to them (verse 21). The point is that it is their fault for not believing, not God’s fault. That is why Romans 9:32 answers the question with “because they”, not “because God”. More on that verse here: https://predestinationstation.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/romans-930-103/

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      2. kingswoodhart writes, “The question is why do some not believe while others do believe,…the non-Christian ethnic Israelites have been given all they needed to believe, with God even continuing to hold out his hands to them (verse 21). The point is that it is their fault for not believing,…”

        So, in the end, “…it is their fault for not believing,…” You have no real answer to why two people equally endowed with all they need to believe can take such different directions. That’s fine, but don’t complain about the Calvinists wanting to dive deeper into the issue and discover why that is. Their conclusion – Total Depravity. If the best you can do is, “…it is their fault for not believing,…,” then you have no argument against the Calvinist conclusion – you just don’t like it, but you cannot produce an alternative explanation.

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      3. Imagine I invite two people to a party. The invitations contain all the information that each recipient needs to be able to come to the party. One person shows up, the other doesn’t. Why? I don’t know as I don’t have infinite knowledge of how their brains operate and how they decide things, but I know it wasn’t my fault that one of them didn’t come. The reason why one came and the other didn’t must be to do with them, not to do with me.

        Do you accept that this example is something that might happen in real life?

        Is it necessary for me to be able to explain why each person chose in each way for me to be able to reach the conclusion that the reason one came and the other didn’t was to do with them, not me?

        Paul seemed content in Romans 9-11 to give the explanation that it was the unbelieving ethnic Israelites’ fault rather than God’s fault that they didn’t accept God’s word while other people did accept it. He did this without giving a full explanation of how their brains reached the conclusion. I’m happy to stick with what the Bible says without speculating about the details of how we make choices.

        I would be interested to know how you think total depravity answers the question of why one person believes and another doesn’t. Do you think God gives everyone all they need to be able to believe?

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      4. kingswoodhart writes, “The reason why one came and the other didn’t must be to do with them, not to do with me.

        Do you accept that this example is something that might happen in real life?…

        I would be interested to know how you think total depravity answers the question of why one person believes and another doesn’t. Do you think God gives everyone all they need to be able to believe?”

        Only the Calvinists have offered an explanation for one coming and the other not – Total Depravity. Your conclusion, “One person shows up, the other doesn’t. Why? I don’t know…” You don’t know, so you have no complaint against Calvinism just because it offers a reasonable explanation.

        Then, “Do you think God gives everyone all they need to be able to believe?”

        If a person fails to believe then, necessarily, God did not give that person “all” he needed to be able to believe. Did you mean to say, “…alll…”?

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      5. Please could you answer my question about how total depravity answers the question of why one person believes and another doesn’t? I’m afraid you’ll have to explain it in a bit more detail than just saying “total depravity”.

        Your last comment is like saying: “if a person fails to come to my party then, necessarily, I did not give that person all he needed to be able to attend the party”. Note the word “able” in particular.

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      6. kingswoodhart writes, “Please could you answer my question about how total depravity answers the question of why one person believes and another doesn’t?”

        You already know the answer. Total Depravity says that a person is not able to accept salvation. If a person accepts salvation, then he was able to do so and not totally depraved. Accepting salvation is a no-brainer – everyone God enables to accept salvation will naturally accept salvation else we would conclude that the person is being irrational and thus, totally depraved.

        Earlier, “Do you think God gives everyone all they need to be able to believe?” Then, ““if a person fails to come to my party then, necessarily, I did not give that person all he needed to be able to attend the party”. Note the word “able” in particular.”

        The key descriptor is still, “all.” Less than “all” describes those things necessary to salvation but not sufficient to gain salvation – something is missing and that “something” then explains why some accept (those given “all”) and some reject (those given less than “all.”). “All” means both necessary and sufficient – “all” necessarily ends in salvation and is required for salvation.

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      7. If I have “all the money I need to be able to pay the bills”, does that mean I have all money? Doss that mean I definitely will pay the bills rather than spend the money on something else? It seems you would say yes to both questions.

        The phrase implies sufficiency but does not also imply necessity. The same is true for the word “enable”, which you chose to use. If someone is enabled then they are able to do something, but it is not necessary that they will do it. You should use a different word if you want to show both necessity and sufficiency.

        You say that for an enabled person to decline the offer of salvation would mean they are being irrational and therefore must be totally depraved. So are regenerated people (who are no longer totally depraved) incapable of being irrational?

        You said “Total Depravity says that a person is not able to accept salvation”. It follows from this statement that no one will accept salvation. You then contradict yourself afterwards by talking about people accepting salvation. Either that or you start talking about more than just total depravity, like I said you would need to to answer the question. So “total depravity” doesn’t answer the question.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. kingswoodhart writes, “If I have “all the money I need to be able to pay the bills”, does that mean I have all money? Doss that mean I definitely will pay the bills rather than spend the money on something else? It seems you would say yes to both questions.”

        Not necessarily. There could be other issues entering into the decision. Thus, having the money to pay bills is necessary to paying the bills but not sufficient necessarily to ensure that the bills will be paid. If a person is convinced that he need pay his bills with the only thing preventing him doing so is the money, then supplying the money will result in the bills being paid. If not, then something besides money is at issue.

        Then you write, “You said “Total Depravity says that a person is not able to accept salvation”. It follows from this statement that no one will accept salvation. You then contradict yourself afterwards by talking about people accepting salvation. Either that or you start talking about more than just total depravity, like I said you would need to to answer the question. So “total depravity” doesn’t answer the question.”

        Under Total Depravity, people are not “able” to accept salvation. Paul describes such people in 1 Corinthians 1, when he says, “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” God, by grace, changes this situation – Calvinists call it regeneration – thereby enabling the person to accept salvation. God’s grace includes (1) changing the heart of stone to a heart of flesh, (2) bringing the person under the hearing of the gospel, (3) conveying faith to a person by that gospel, (4) drawing the person to Christ by that gospel, etc. Calvinists presume that God’s grace is sufficient to bring a person to salvation and if not, it was not God’s intend to bring the person to salvation.

        Finally you ask, “So are regenerated people (who are no longer totally depraved) incapable of being irrational?”

        They can still be irrational but not with regard to the issue of salvation. After salvation (a confession of Christ), the person begins his journey to become rational by learning the truth – renewing the mind – per Jesus, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Truth leads to rational thinking.

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  29. I put the following on my Facebook timeline:

    While planning to write on the issue of salvation and those who have never heard the Gospel, Dr. Leighton Flowers was so kind to send me his article “What about those who have never heard?”. Here are some interesting excerpts on which we agree:

    ‘I have yet found anyone who can show me an example from scripture of God holding men responsible for that which they were never given the moral ability to respond.

    (…)

    what about the general revelation? Is there any biblical reason to suggest that man is not “able to respond” for that which God holds him “response-able?” Paul’s declaration of no one having any excuses in light of God’s clear revelation certainly suggests no good excuse exists. Any doctrine that teaches man is born unable, by God’s own decree, to respond to His clear revelation certainly seems to be giving back the very excuse that Paul is attempting to remove. For what better excuse is there for not responding than an innate inability to do so as determined by one’s own creator?

    (…)

    So, what is the answer to the question, “What about those who never hear the gospel?”

    Everyone has what they need to respond to God.

    No one anywhere in this world has any excuse for his or her unbelief. Mankind is responsible to all of God’s revelation because they are able to respond to all of God’s revelation. If they acknowledge the truth of the little revelation that they have received then God is faithful to entrust them with more (Mt. 25:21). If they trade the truth in for lies then they have no excuse (Rm. 1:20).

    In short, the general revelation is sufficient to lead any one to know God’s special revelation, thus no one has any excuse for their unbelief. Paige Patterson recorded a statement, endorsed by many Southern Baptist leaders, that put it this way, “…whenever or wherever in the world there is a man or woman who cries out to God with all of his heart, ‘Lord I want to know you, I want to know what kind of a God you are,’ then I [God] will make it possible for him to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is that God is so loving and so merciful that He makes Himself available to everyman who seeks Him, which is why the Bible says, ‘You shall find Me when you seek for Me with all your heart’” (Jer. 29:13).

    By the way, I think it takes more work to get to hell than to get to heaven. I do not believe in works salvation, but I do believe in works damnation. It takes work to trade the clear truth of God in for lies.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tom Torbeyns writes, “In short, the general revelation is sufficient to lead any one to know God’s special revelation, thus no one has any excuse for their unbelief.”

      Romans 1 deals with general revelation, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” But what is the result, “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

      So, it may be true that general revelation is sufficient lead one to special revelation, but Romans 1 indicates that it does not. Of course, we find the people of Noah’s day also rejecting direct revelation – the ark being built and Noah’s preaching plus general revelation of Romans 1. I think you are correct in what you say and thereby, all are rightfully condemned.

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