Mere Information vs. Divine Inspiration

My friends over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians just posted a response to my article titled: Why I’m not an Arminian.  The article’s author is Micah Currado and it is very well written. You can read it in its entirety HERE, but I will only be responding to what I see as the root cause of our contention.

Micah begins by somewhat nitpicking my nail driving analogy (though in a very clever way, I must admit) by insisting that my representation of the Holy Spirit’s work is not personal enough. All analogies fall short on some point, but this becomes especially evident when an “opponent” avoids the point of the analogy by focusing upon a point the analogy was not even meant to address.

Rather than seeking to defend the analogy itself I wish to focus directly upon the application that Micah draws out in his critique when he writes:

“This [referring to my analogy] is not the Arminian view, for it misses the personal, relational aspect of God directly working within our hearts prior to our acceptance of the gospel.”

In contrast, I would contend that it is by the means of the Holy Spirit inspired gospel that God directly works within man’s hearts prior to their acceptance and/or rejection of the appeal made by that gospel. In fact, I believe that is what the scripture is contending when it says:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

This penetrating work into the “soul and spirit” sounds like the work of “prevenient grace” described by my Arminian brethren, yet the author of Hebrews simply refers to “the word of God” as accomplishing this work, not some extra working of grace that aids the otherwise incapacitated nature of fallen man.

Here are two other passages that seem to teach that the scriptures, God’s inspired word, are sufficient even for the lost:

“…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

And

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

And

“The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63)

The Early Church Fathers likewise seemed to agree with this understanding:

Athanasius wrote, “The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth.”

Irenaeus, (130-202) wrote, “We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith,” (Adv. H. 3:1)

Shockingly, Micah also appeals to the teaching of Irenaeus in his article:

The respected early Christian writer Irenaeus (170 AD) wrote: “The light does not fail because of those who have blinded themselves; rather, while it remains the same as ever, those who are blind themselves are involved in darkness through their own fault. The light does never enslave any one by necessity; nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon any one unwilling to accept the exercise of His skill. Those persons, therefore, who have apostatized from the light given by the Father, and transgressed the law of liberty, have done so through their own fault, since they have been created free agents, and possessed of power over themselves.”

For the life of me I cannot comprehend why Micah believes this quote supports the concept of man’s innate total inability to believe the light of the gospel appeal. Irenaeus places the fault onto the individual chooser, not on an inherited moral incapacity of the fallen nature. Micah continues:

It is true we have freedom, yet, this freedom is not independent from the light of God shining forth. This light is not merely information, but the very personal acts of the Holy Spirit…

Is Micah arguing that the Holy Spirit inspired revelation of the gospel is “merely information?” This argument presumes that the gospel itself is not an intimately personal work of the Holy Spirit. Calvinists have often accused me of believing that lost men merely “need knowledge or information” (see my discussion with Sean Cole), but why would Arminians make the same critical error of equating the Holy Spirit wrought gospel truth with “mere information?” I’ve always called the gospel “divine inspiration” or “revelation,” but never “mere information!” 

Here is the issue:

We both believe the Holy Spirit is personally working to enable the lost to come to faith so as to be saved.  We disagree as to the MEANS by which the Holy Spirit does this, period. 

For instance, Micah says, “In my mind even the thought experiment of whether the gospel is sufficient without the personal work of the Holy Spirit makes no sense…” I agree, that does not make any sense. 

Do you see the clear contrast between Micah and myself on this point? He thinks I believe “the gospel is sufficient without the personal work of the Holy Spirit,” whereas I actually believe, “the gospel is sufficient BECAUSE it is the personal work of the Holy Spirit.”

I could have just let that sentence alone be my rebuttal to this entire argument, but I want to cover a few more points for the sake of clarity.

We believe the gospel is sufficient to accomplish the biblically stated purpose. And what is the purpose for which the gospel was sent according to scripture?  “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31)*. We believe the gospel is sufficient to enable faith because it IS a personal work of the Holy Spirit Himself.

*HERE is a great resource to support this interpretation of John 20:31 from the original language. (From Thomas “Willie” Adams, PhD)

Micah says, “Yet, by God’s personal and direct spiritual contact with our souls, He may free our will again, to be able to receive the message of the Gospel.” And I would counter this saying, “By God’s personal and direct spiritual contact with our souls, by means of the Holy Spirit inspired gospel, He enables us to freely respond.”

Micah says,

Dr. Brian Abasciano proposed a better analogy: “It is like the difference between me giving someone a message to pass on to you and me coming to your house and sitting down with you and discussing my message with you. In one instance, I am not actively and personally conversing with you, and in the other I am.

This analogy, like the doctrine of inability, presumes you would not be able to understand and willingly reply to a message passed on to you by means of a messenger so as to arrange a personal meeting with Brian. I agree there is a clear difference between reading Brian’s invitation and meeting with Brian in person, but I thought we all agreed that the Holy Spirit does not take up residence with us until we first believe the gospel (i.e. respond to his invitation)? Yet, this analogy seems to get “the cart before the horse” by suggesting that the Holy Spirit must personally reside with us prior to our response to His invitation to do so (i.e. the gospel). I’m sorry, but that comes mighty close to conceding the pre-faith regeneration argument over to the Calvinists, even if unintentionally so.

Imagine if my wife, Laura, sent me a text message asking to meet her for a date tonight. Would it be reasonable to suggest that was an “impersonal” means of inviting me to a personal interaction? Of course not. Both the message and the date are personal because BOTH were from HER. The gospel IS FROM GOD, so it is personal. It is an inspired message sent by Him to fallen mankind. Why would anyone assume that is not personal?

Likewise, would it be reasonable to call the text from my wife “insufficient?” Of course not. The message is meant to set up a personal encounter with her, not to be the “end all” of the relationship. The text accomplishes it given purpose, just as the gospel does. To call that Holy Spirit inspired message “mere information” or “impersonal” or “insufficient” is simply misunderstanding the source, the purpose and the power of the gospel itself.

Micah also made several points with which I would firmly agree, yet did so in a manner that might lead one to believe I would not agree. For instance, he wrote, “Exercising faith in God is not about merely affirming the historicity of the Gospel message, but about “keeping faith” with God Himself.” If Micah is under the impression that I am promoting a doctrine that one must merely affirm the information brought by divine revelation rather than placing one’s trust in Christ personally, then he has certainly gotten the wrong impression. To return to the analogy above, I can read my wife’s text so as to understand her desire to meet me, but if I do not show up to the date to personally meet with her then that is my own fault, not an insufficiency of the means by which my wife chose to invite me.

Micah writes,

All the problems of unsaved humanity — mortality, the fear of death and slavery to sin that it produces (Heb 2:15), our hostility to God (Col 1:21; Rom 8:7), are at root driven by our alienation from God and at root solved by connection with God. Non-believers do not have God living and abiding in them. This is not so much a problem actively present in a non-believer, as it is an emptiness for which the solution is a Person.

Of course we would agree with this as well, but what are the means that Person chose to invite us into relationship? And are those means sufficient?  The answers to those two question gets to the heart of our actual contention.

Finally, Micah concludes:

As I have written, the Holy Spirit presents Jesus Christ Himself to the door of our heart, shining His light in His personal presence.  It is only when we are confronted personally by God Himself that we may choose to welcome Him or resist Him.

To which I would also say “Amen!” But how does “the Holy Spirit present Jesus Christ Himself to the door of our heart?” How does He shine “His light?” How has the Holy Spirit “confronted personally…that we may choose to welcome Him or resist Him?”  This concluding statement, like the entire article itself, carries with it the unfounded presumption that the inspired means of the Holy Spirit (the Gospel) is not personal enough or sufficient enough to accomplish its biblically stated purpose. 

This whole discussion reminds me of that old analogy that preachers often tell about the man caught in the flood who refuses a car, a boat and a helicopter because he insists, “the Lord is going to save him.”  Upon the man’s arrival in heaven, he asks God why he refused to save him from the flood and God replies, “I sent you a car, boat and helicopter, what else do you need?”  The analogy is to remind us not to over spiritualized and theologize how God works in our world. He works through MEANS!  The Holy Spirit works by the means of the gospel! It baffles me as to why anyone would presume those means are somehow insufficient to accomplish their stated purpose.

In conclusion, have you noticed what the Arminian has conceded to the Calvinist in maintaining the unfounded belief that mankind has somehow loss His moral capacity to respond willingly to God’s own inspired revelation? All of the arguments that we have expounded upon here on Soteriology 101 about Christ’s parables, the Messianic Secret and God’s judicial hardening of Israel so as to ensure redemption are GONE if we concede the point of Total Inability. I realize this is not about winning a debate against Calvinists. It is about rightly understanding the scriptures. And I realize that is the sincere desire of my Arminian friends when approaching the text.  

I’m simply appealing to my brothers and sisters to objectively consider the fact that Calvinists and Arminians have been waring over an issue that is virtually non-existant in the early church or in Eastern Christianity today.  Why do you suppose that is? Could it be that both Calvinists and Arminians start with the wrong PRESUMPTION? (i.e. that the Holy Spirit inspired gospel itself is not personal enough or sufficient enough to accomplish its biblically stated purpose?) Think about it, brethren! If you simply accept our view of the gospel as being a personal appeal inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself so as to sufficiently enable a free response, then the whole 1500 year debate between the waring fractions within the church virtually disappears!

As Dr. James Leo Garrett rightly obverses: “From Augustine of Hippo to the twentieth century, Western Christianity has tended to interpret the doctrine of election from the perspective of and with regard to individual human beings. During those same centuries the doctrine has been far less emphasized and seldom ever controversial in Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it possible that Augustine and later Calvin, with the help of many others, contributed to a hyper individualization of this doctrine that was hardly warranted by Romans 9–11, Eph. 1, and I Peter 2? Is it not true that the major emphasis in both testaments falls upon an elect people—Israel (OT) and disciples or church (NT)?”

My Arminians friends, please, I beg of you, simply take just one more step in the right direction so as to topple the T of the Calvinistic TULIP.  Do away with the unbiblical and illogical presumption that fallen men cannot morally respond to God’s own inspired appeals to be reconciled from that fall because they are fallen.  

To hear more on this topic please listen to this message I preached at Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary.

130 thoughts on “Mere Information vs. Divine Inspiration

  1. Another good post, Leighton! I wonder if you think that the Word, though under its own inspired power is sufficient to get the heart to decide for or against seeking further understanding, that the Holy Spirit often chooses to get more personally involved at those times. Does the omnipresent Holy Spirit who is watching that person’s interaction with the Word then freely chooses to present added thoughts and conviction or does He just passively watch what response is being made to the Word’s influence?

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    1. I’ve often said that I’ve always affirmed the Spirit’s use of various means to persuade or draw men to faith and repentance. I just don’t believe the employment of these means somehow suggest the insufficiency of the gospel to enable a willing response. The means are meant to draw, not “fix” or “heal” an otherwise morally disabled nature.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agree. Great article. Brian, if I understand your question correctly, it seems you are trying to draw a distinction whether the work of the Holy Spirit inspired gospel is merely a passive Illuminator to get people to make a choice or is it actively & personally affecting/infecting/effecting the hearer?

      I believe the principle behind the suffiency of the Spirit filled Gospel espoused by Dr Fowlers goes beyond mere passivity, as Dr Flowers wrote in the article, its also personal. And if we believe in the Full Force of the principle of the sufficiency of the gospel, then I agree with Dr Flowers that we would eliminate the doctrines of “prevenint grace” and of “total inability”- which only serves to muddy the truth behind the Power of the Gospel.

      I just wanted to share a small study showing the full force of this principle for the audience; how the work of the Holy Spirit & Word of God reveals that the Word is absolutely powerful, dividing soul & spirit (Heb 4:12) and full of Spirit and Life (John 6:63), and sufficient to bringing someone to eternal life or death, and these things even non-believers can do.

      It is THROUGH the Word that people are reborn (James 1:18) and saved (James 1:21). And THROUGH the word that we are judged (John 12:48). The word IS the very means and conditions set forth by God.

      “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:29 ESV

      “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” John 12:48 ESV

      “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
      James 1:18 NIV

      “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility RECEIVE the word implanted, which is ABLE TO SAVE your souls.”
      James 1:21 NASB

      “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” John 13:20 ESV

      “And many more believed because of his word.”
      John 4:41 ESV

      “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” 1 Peter 1:23 ESV

      “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”
      John 1:12 ESV

      This by no means an exhaustive study of “being born (again) through the word” or of the ability or inability to believe without the extra help of God changing someone’s heart. I conclude with this;

      That scripture is clear, people can hear and obey:

      “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
      Deuteronomy 30:11‭-‬14 ESV, paralleled here:

      “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
      Romans 10:8‭-‬9 ESV – Amen.

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      1. Great verses, Simple, (Is it Guy? I forgot if I had asked your name before.) Your verses clearly show the power that the Word has on its own. But I find myself thinking back to the parable of the sower.

        I appears to me from that parable that the problem is not with the Word, but with the soil. However, I do believe that the Word has at least a minimal effect, even in the hardest heart, causing at least a clear sense of the Word’s truthfulness and a sense of a benefit if further understanding of it were sought.

        The Holy Spirit is always present, watching how the heart responds to that effect from His Word. And He can protect that heart from the evil one stealing the seed, and from trials, cares, and temptations destroying the seed’s further influence.

        I believe the Holy Spirit does become personally involved in protecting and preparing the heart for the Word to have greater influence. And I believe He does these things especially in answer to our prayers for the Word to have greater effect.

        2Thess 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run [swiftly] and be glorified, just as [it is] with you,

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      2. brianwagner writes, “The Holy Spirit is always present, watching how the heart responds to that effect from His Word. And He can protect that heart from the evil one stealing the seed, and from trials, cares, and temptations destroying the seed’s further influence.

        I believe the Holy Spirit does become personally involved in protecting and preparing the heart for the Word to have greater influence. And I believe He does these things especially in answer to our prayers for the Word to have greater effect.”

        This is basically a Calvinist response to the situation, but you mysteriously commend Simple for his Pelagian response. It is the Holy Spirit – “He can protect that heart from the evil one stealing the seed…” which He must do and does do in the case of the good soil (the elect).

        Certainly, the prayers of the believer are effectual.

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      3. Good morning Roger! I think you are being too hard on Simple. He is speaking about being able to “hear and obey” the inspired Word. What is being discussed is the inherent ability and universal result of hearing and being enabled to “obey”, or at least enabled to seek further understanding towards a decision for obedience that exists each time the seed it sent forth into the heart. No “Pelagianism” here.

        As a side note, I don’t think Pelagius taught what he is often accused of. A reading of his commnentary on Romans will easily demonstrate this. Though I do believe he held to the same false sacramental gospel that Augustine did. Why would anyone trust these men’s views on foreknowledge and free-will when they got the gospel so wrong?

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      4. brianwagner writes, ” I think you are being too hard on Simple. He is speaking about being able to “hear and obey” the inspired Word. ”

        I think Simple gave an excellent explanation of a Pelagian view on this. Simple says, “I agree with Dr Flowers that we would eliminate the doctrines of “prevenint grace” and of “total inability”- which only serves to muddy the truth behind the Power of the Gospel.” What is more Pelagian that that? is there an issue here?

        Then, “What is being discussed is the inherent ability and universal result of hearing and being enabled to “obey”, or at least enabled to seek further understanding towards a decision for obedience that exists each time the seed it sent forth into the heart. No “Pelagianism” here.”

        I think we need to parse this a little more. Inherent ability can be divided into natural ability and moral ability. Simple will have to help us here, but I suspect he agrees that the lost have no natural ability to save themselves but do have a moral ability to accept salvation if offered. If Simple says that the lost have neither natural nor moral ability, then he takes the Calvinist position – and I don’t think he is doing that.

        The, “As a side note, I don’t think Pelagius taught what he is often accused of. A reading of his commnentary on Romans will easily demonstrate this. Though I do believe he held to the same false sacramental gospel that Augustine did. Why would anyone trust these men’s views on foreknowledge and free-will when they got the gospel so wrong?”

        Who really knows what Pelagius taught! From what I read, the Pelagian position is one that advocates free will and the denial of Total Depravity (which was not even coined in his day) but essentially means that it denies any moral inability to accept salvation.

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      5. Simple has provided an excellent example of a Pelagian response for salvation. He says, “…people can hear and obey:” and this separates him from the Calvinist and other non-Pelagians who say that people cannot hear and obey without God’s enabling then to hear and obey. Of course, all who can hear and obey will choose to obey – that decision is a no-brainer.

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      6. Hello Rhutchin. I think it immature to call someone by the calvinist boogey man’s name haha. It doesn’t hurt my feelings because like Brian said, who knows what Pelagian actually believed. But to the unsuspecting audience who don’t know what I believe, ur comment is slanderous. You’ve even called Professor Flowers a pelagian. I’d rather you just out right call me a heretic, and be honest in what you mean. Stop hiding behind theological baggage and boogeymans. And I hate to detract from the real issues in this article because it does no one any good. But please let me make a point once and for all, and maybe you’ll stop calling people a Pelagian.

        I know you’re a calvinist based on ur own admission in these posts. John Calvin was a murderer. Should I therefore call u also- a murderer? Keep reading…

        “If he [Servetus] comes [to Geneva], I shall never let him go out alive if my authority has weight.” -Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Baker Book House, 1950), p. 371.

        “I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty.” -Walter Nigg, The Heretics (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1962), p. 328.

        “Calvin had thus murdered his enemy, and there is nothing to suggest that he ever repented his crime. The next year he published a defence in which further insults were heaped upon his former adversary in most vindictive and intemperate language.”- Michael Servetus Humanist and Martyr, p. 36.

        Lets take this to its logical conclusion. If i were to judge u Rhutchin, the way you judge me, this is how i would say it and be honest about it. John Calvin is ur father (at least theologically) And he was a murderer. Who was Calvin’s father? You guessed it, like-father, like-son, like-great grandson:

        “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” -John 8:44

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  2. Hello Leighton,

    I’m honored to have you respond to my post, although I wish our meeting-of-the-minds might have happened under more ‘agreeable’ circumstances. I think you make some good points; I’ll pen a short response soon, and hopefully I can delineate some of our consensus points as well.
    The issue of “depravity” or “inability” is not very high on my radar. However, the personal and intimately relational aspect of salvation is (as I’m sure it is with you as well). There is a spectrum of views within Arminianism on what such inability is, and I wanted to take an approach in my article that emphasized not a particular view of the will but of that relational nature of salvation. I know you largely agree with this, and I feel like we are splitting some hairs here – hairs I am not particularly passionate about. If you take a look at the website I’ve begun, you can see that I haven’t really addressed depravity or inability directly at all ( yieldtogod.WordPress.org ), my focus is on yielding to the Spirit and having a robust view of Christology, Trinity, and theosis/union with Christ.

    Anyway, I appreciate the work you do, and I hope that our shared paradigms are not eclipsed by a disagreement on this matter.

    God bless you, and please pray for me,

    Micah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Micah. You are a gifted writer. Keep using that gift…just not against me. 😉

      Yes, there are some hairs being split, as was the case with my interaction earlier with William Birch…none-the-less I do think these discussions matter in how we handle other pertinent issues (as reflected in my article). Blessings and prayers friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Leighton,

        Well, never call me a gifted writer again – I wrote a long article to somewhat clarify my position on this and perhaps invite you into further dialogue. It’s not “published” on my site, but it is viewable through this link: https://yieldtogod.wordpress.com/unmediated-a-clarification/ I again sought to approach it from a non-Augustinian perspective.

        If you find that I’ve misrepresented you at all or that my position is untenable for various reasons, I would love your input – here on this thread, or in the comments on my page. I’d certainly be open to editing the post if needed.

        God’s blessings to you and your ministry,

        – Micah

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  3. I have had some disagreements with Calvinists over this verse:
    “For 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 people are without excuse.”

    In your opinion are people given enough light to be redeemed even if they never hear the gospel? Were there people “saved” from other tribes long before Christ came?

    I read a testimony of a man who decided to spend a winter in solitude and living very primitive, and he went away an agnostic and came back a devout Christian. I assume he had heard the gospel before, but…we all agree that the Spirit works through the gospel, but what about other means?

    “but what are the means that Person chose to invite us into relationship? And are those means sufficient?”

    I wonder if some of us need something more, because of our callused hearts. I think of people such as myself who knew the gospel for a long time before submitting to it. This is one of the reasons why I’m not a cessationist. It seems that at times the Spirit goes to extraordinary measures to reach certain people. This isn’t irresistible grace, but it’s certainly above and beyond simply hearing the gospel at times. God’s “playbook” is pretty thick and varied. I think it was Lewis who said he doesn’t’ care how he gets you, just that he does.

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    1. Hi WW! I think one has to also determine if the “gospel” that brought salvation to souls before the time of Moses would still be sufficient today for those people who do not hear the crucifixion/resurrection story. I think Elihu’s discussion of God’s universal involvement to enlighten everyone a few times, enabling them to call on God and to receive His righteousness is still true today for such people (cf. Job 33:14-30).

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    2. This was my thought too. While I call myself an Arminian, I think it possible that man can respond to natural revelation. Though I guess looking at Leighton’s post, that would be another means through which the Holy Spirit works.

      The problem with natural revelation is that it is still very limited, while salvation is still thru Christ, better they know Christ thru hearing the gospel

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      1. So here is a question to consider, Beth. Since God uses creation to personally cause “His power and Godhead” to “be revealed in” every man (Rom 1:19-20) at least once, and since God causes the work of His law to be written in man’s conscience, which results in some “accusing” (Rom 2:15), so that man comes to know at some level “the judgment of God” (Rom 1:32), would this be sufficient for a person to cry out “God be merciful to me a sinner”? Jesus said the repentant taxcollector went home “justified” after praying that prayer (Luke 18:13-14)

        Elihu, before any Scripture was written, said God uses other things in everyone’s life to draw them (who never heard the NT gospel, obviously) to salvation.
        Job 33:26 He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, he shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness.
        Job 33:27 Then he looks at men and says, ‘I have sinned, and perverted [what was] right, And it did not profit me.’
        Job 33:28 He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, And his life shall see the light.
        Job 33:29 “Behold, God works all these [things,] Twice, [in fact,] three [times] with a man,
        Job 33:30 To bring back his soul from the Pit, That he may be enlightened with the light of life.

        Isn’t this an example of the universal Gospel for all time? – The creator God will be merciful to any repentant sinner who will trust in Him for salvation, Does salvation depend on how much more detail and facts must be known concerning how and why He can be merciful. Now that more detail and facts are available in the NT Scriptures, do they have to be known/understood before salvation can take place?

        I am not suggesting that this added light concerning God’s mercy should not be preached throughout creation. The more light the better! I am just curious about these things that relate to God’s justice and His plan that all come to repentance (2Pet 3:9) and His desire that they come to a knowledge of the truth and to His salvation (1TIm 2:4).

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      2. I am confident you meant to write, “…His plan that all His elect come to repentance (2Pet 3:9) and His desire that both Jew and Gentile come to a knowledge of the truth and to His salvation (1TIm 2:4).”

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      3. Do I detect a smile 🙂 behind your words? His elect (whom He is forming with those who receive His Son) do need continual repentance for lingering sinful habits, like trusting confused man-made theology! But 2Peter 3:9 says “any”, an indefinite pronoun, which, as we have discussed before, is more grammatically related to those who are not yet saved, and thus need to come to the opportunity of repentance that God has planned for them. Acts 17:30 confirms that this repentance is for all men, everywhere to experience.

        Yes, His desire is for Jews and Gentiles to come to a knowledge of the truth and to His salvation. In fact it is for everyone, everywhere! He also has the desire not to force that salvation on all everyone, everywhere, but is willing to suffer the rejection and loss of those who spurn His gracious, enabling offer of mercy that can save their souls.

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      4. brianwagner writes, “Do I detect a smile 🙂 behind your words?

        Of course.

        Then, “His elect (whom He is forming with those who receive His Son) do need continual repentance for lingering sinful habits, like trusting confused man-made theology! But 2Peter 3:9 says “any”, an indefinite pronoun, which, as we have discussed before, is more grammatically related to those who are not yet saved, and thus need to come to the opportunity of repentance that God has planned for them. Acts 17:30 confirms that this repentance is for all men, everywhere to experience.”

        Whether the pronoun is definite or indefinite depends on one’s theology. Apparently, the rules of Greek grammar cannot resolve the issue. The Calvinists say it is definite so that God has not destroyed the world because He is still saving His elect and this is happening in the course of time that extends from Genesis 1 to the final judgment. That left those opposed to Calvinism to argue that the pronoun is indefinite – What else could one do?

        If the pronoun is indefinite, then we have “[God] is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This argument was developed by the Universalist who said that that God will save all (indefinite pronoun) with the Calvinists saying that God will save some (definite pronoun). Those are the two sides of the issue coming out of 2 Peter 3. Of course, the Universalist and the Calvinist both agree that it is God who saves and disagree on how many God will save (although the Calvinist would have no problem if God chose to save all and would rejoice at such an outcome as we all would).

        Then, to make things interesting, others, who just didn’t like Calvinism, but couldn’t help but side with the Calvinists against universalism had to take the universalist argument (indefinite pronoun) while not agreeing with the universalist. This led to a distortion of the verse to say that God is willing for the unsaved to be saved but is still OK with them perishing, so that Peter really didn’t mean it when he wrote, “God is not willing…”.

        Then, “Yes, His desire is for Jews and Gentiles to come to a knowledge of the truth and to His salvation. In fact it is for everyone, everywhere! He also has the desire not to force that salvation on all everyone, everywhere, but is willing to suffer the rejection and loss of those who spurn His gracious, enabling offer of mercy that can save their souls.”

        Oh, Brian!!! The verse says, “[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

        Both the Calvinist and the Universalist take “wants” in a strong sense. Thus, the Calvinist says that Paul had in mind both Jews and Gentiles (agreeing with his mindset in Ephesians 3), while the Universalist says that Paul had in mind each and every individual. Then, those non-Calvinist, non-Universalist came along and needing to water this verse down had to say as little as possible, had to take the position that “wants” is a very, very weak term and then they could talk like you do above. That’s life. Once one buys into free will theology, that theology dictates one’s hermeneutic.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Every one’s theology, Roger, or rather the presuppositions they choose as foundational to their theology, “dictate one’s hermeneutic.”

        The choice remains to side with the presuppositions behind the theology that seem to represent the most normal reading of the Word and with the understanding those prophets and apostles had about God and His nature!

        I don’t think they thought they were writing as much anthropomorphism and Platonic idealism about God as some theologies profess!

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    3. Natural revelation only points a person in the direction of God. It has no ability to deal with sin or a person’s need for a savior. As Pastor Flowers pints out, one must also “hear” the gospel preached (where disagreement over the meaning of “hear” divides the Calvinist from the Pelagian). God can use natural revelation as one means – necessary for salvation but not sufficient to produce salvation.

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      1. Rhutchin, yes I am aware of that position. I have inclusivist tendencies: that men can respond to the limited natural revelation that they have. Such a response of faith (in the limited capacity it often is) in God is still faith; though one is only saved by Christ.

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      2. bethyada writes, “men can respond to the limited natural revelation that they have. Such a response of faith (in the limited capacity it often is) in God is still faith;”

        A limited natural revelation only points a person to God. There are many “gods” competing for the person’s attention as Satan is active and well. It is only the gospel – here comprising the entirety of the Scriptures – that point a person to the true and living God and then to one’s need to be saved. Romans 1 tells us, “…although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,…” It is no accident that this happens where the Scriptures are absent. So, people can respond but they don’t and if they did, they would respond to the god they envision (with Satan’s help) and end up seeking to glorify a false god. It’s a rough world out there with many unsympathetic voices.

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      3. I don’t understand why all the Calvinists are so dead set against a person being saved by natural revelation alone combined with the Holy Spirit’s work. It would seem that believing in Total inability, it would make perfect sense that God could over ride anyone’s will anytime by any means. We hear today of Muslims being converted by dreams in which Jesus appears to them. To me, this is prevenient grace. One still has the ability to deny it, just as Paul could have after being struck blind, but it’s a more blatantly miraculous way of God revealing himself then someone simply hearing the gospel.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. wildswanderer writes, “I don’t understand why all the Calvinists are so dead set against a person being saved by natural revelation alone combined with the Holy Spirit’s work.”

        I don’t really think it is the Calvinists who are the problem. Let’s accept the idea that people are saved through natural revelation (and free will – which is the real issue). There are some who accept salvation and some who reject salvation. It is from those who reject salvation that Calvinism says God chooses whom He will save.

        The point of contention is Total Depravity/Inability and the issue of free will. To Pastor Flowers’ credit, he is focused like a laser beam on the Inability/Free will issue. He understands that giving in to Total Depravity/Inability is giving in to TULIP. However, a great many other non-Calvinists, rather than defend free will against depravity will go off and harp on the U, L and I presumably because it is too difficult to defend a free will theology (which is Pelagianism despite Pastor Flowers objections).

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      5. Flowers has never denied that God has to reveal himself to man in order for man to respond to him. Of course we lack the ability to freely choose God until he gives us light in some way. Whatever Pelagian actually believed, what has become known as Pelagianism isn’t what Flowers is teaching.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. wildswandere writes, “Whatever Pelagian actually believed, what has become known as Pelagianism isn’t what Flowers is teaching.”

        A distinction without a difference from what I gather. Pastor Flowers is an adherent of free will theology and Pelagianism is identified with free will theology. It is difficult, I think impossible, to argue free will and not sidle up to Pelagianism.

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      7. wildswanderer writes, “Says the guy who insists that God gives everyone free will but they always choose Him, you Pelagian, you.”

        You must have me confused with someone else. I am straight-up Calvinist on this. Adam sinned and the free will he had was compromised for him and everyone since. After Adam, people are free to do as they desire and that which they desire is ruled by their sin nature. In regeneration, God removes the sin nature (replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh) and conveys to His elect that free will enjoyed by Adam that is then exercised in choosing salvation in response to the gospel. God does not regenerate everyone – only His elect.

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      8. “God removes the sin nature and conveys to His elect that free will enjoyed by Adam…”
        Well, first you have it backwards. God first frees the will so that a real choice can be made. Then, he removes the sin nature from those who have chosen to become his elect.
        There are scads of verses confirming that this is the order in which salvation happens. But, you are still trying to push free will into a theology that doesn’t allow for it. If a freed will always chooses God, Adam and millions of others who resist the Spirit of God must not have gotten the memo.

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      9. wildswanderer writes, “Well, first you have it backwards. God first frees the will so that a real choice can be made.”

        Fine. Under that scenario, all accept salvation (as the Universalist argues). If you get a mix (as the Calvinists argue) – some accept and some reject – then you know that those who accept had their wills freed by God while God passed over those who reject (actually continue to reject).

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      10. “Fine. Under that scenario, all accept salvation.”

        Acts 7:51
        “51 ‘You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: you always resist the Holy Spirit!”

        Eph 4:30″30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

        7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:

        Hebrews 3:7″‘Today, if you hear his voice,
        8 do not harden your hearts”

        It’s very plain from scripture that people can and do resist the Spirit.

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      11. wildswanderer writes, “It’s very plain from scripture that people can and do resist the Spirit.”

        Remember your initial condition – God grants them free will. We know why the depraved person can and does resist the Spirit – because of his depravity (and necessarily slavery to sin and lack of free will). Can you explain what leads a person to resist the Spirit whose will God has freed? You seem to be purposely avoiding the real issue here.

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      12. And what you seem be re-naming free will is obviously not free at all in your version. Why would a person who has been given light not be able to resist that light? Do you suppose Satan just stops working on anyone who has heard the gospel? To the contrary, that’s when he attacks all the more.

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      13. wildswanderer writes, “Why would a person who has been given light not be able to resist that light?”

        Certainly a person could resist the light. However, he was resisting the light in his depravity prior to God endowing him with free will. Does “free will” change the way a person reacts to the gospel? It probably depends on the definition of free will. However, the outcome you seek is that some people exercise the free will to salvation while others continue to reject salvation despite now having free will. What is going on? How is it that God endows one person with free will with the result that the person is saved while a second person similarly endowed is not? The Calvinist conclusion is that God did not endow the second person with free will because he continues to reject salvation as he always has. There is no external evidence that the person was given free will. The only way to tell that God has endowed a person with free will is if that person exercises free will to do something different than they were doing without free will. Can you explain in any other way?

        Then, “Do you suppose Satan just stops working on anyone who has heard the gospel? To the contrary, that’s when he attacks all the more.”

        Merely hearing the gospel is not the issue here. You have God endowing people with free will who were previously hearing the gospel and rejecting it – and now a dramatic change occurs; the person reverses course and accepts the gospel – the evidence that God has done something to them.

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      14. “How is it that God endows one person with free will with the result that the person is saved while a second person similarly endowed is not?”

        Seriously? This is so absurd it’s laughable. Why does free will produce different responses? Well, duh, if it didn’t it could hardly be free.

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      15. wildswanderer writes, “Seriously? This is so absurd it’s laughable. Why does free will produce different responses? Well, duh, if it didn’t it could hardly be free.”

        Your point is that God gives everyone free will where none had it before. As everyone is equal in having free will, free will, by itself cannot explain how different responses are obtained – which is why you cannot explain it and were forced to punt. There needs to be a variable present that distinguishes between the responses and can explain different responses. Perhaps, the variable is, as the Calvinists claim, – those who continue to reject salvation as always were never given free will.

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      16. “As everyone is equal in having free will, free will, by itself cannot explain how different responses are obtained…”
        This only makes sense if you believe man has no self determining power whatsoever. Part of being made in God’s will is the ability to determine one’s destiny. Otherwise, we are all just fizz in a bottle, and frankly, reading the Bible would be a waste of time. Man has been given some dominion whether you like it or not.

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      17. wildswanderer writes, “This only makes sense if you believe man has no self determining power whatsoever.”

        What do you mean by “self determining power”? To the Calvinists, this means that the person is able to evaluate options available using information on hand and makes a decision that promotes the good of the person. However, this is on top of the foundation of the sin nature preventing a choice that is contrary to that sin nature. Of course, this is within the context of free will that is subordinate to the sin nature.

        Can you tell us how self-determining power works in your system? This would be in the context of “free will” and what that means in your system. Can you explain how these mesh together?

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      18. It has everything to do with laying down the will and almost nothing to do with evaluating options as if this were about choosing a cheeseburger or a sub. Good grief, this is not mental, it’s spiritual.
        Ever have one of those “lightbulb” moments when it comes to understanding scripture? I was listening to the interview by Flowers of Brian Abasciano last night and they mentioned how some Jews were predisposed to believe the gospel due to being willing believers of all that had been revealed in the Torah and I had one of those “duh” moments that make so many verses about Jews being “chosen by grace” and “all the father send me” make perfect sense. Some people are pre-disposed to believe because they have humble hearts and they have humble hearts because they have chosen humility over arrogance. It’s really that simple.

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      19. wildswanderer writes, “Ever have one of those “lightbulb” moments when it comes to understanding scripture? ”

        Everyone should have a “light bulb” moment and accept salvation if they have free will – after all, it is free will that leads to the “light bulb” moment. Is that not correct – it’s not rocket science?

        If not, then you (perhaps by pointing us to a good non-Calvinist explanation) should be able to explain how one person with free will has a “light bulb” moment” while another with that same free will, does not. You keep wandering off down rabbit trails rather than explaining this distinction between two people with free will who make incredibly opposite decisions.

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      20. It’s obvious to me that you have no idea what free will is. By merit of having free will one can reject the light or accept it, there is no need of further explanation.

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      21. wildswanderer writes, “It’s obvious to me that you have no idea what free will is. By merit of having free will one can reject the light or accept it, there is no need of further explanation.”

        Your claim is that those who accept salvation and those who reject salvation both do so with free will. The issue is not to define the term, “free will,” (though you have shown an inability to do) but to explain the disparate results obtained. Two people with free will make opposite decisions. In the case of salvation, the decision to reject salvation is completely irrational and defies logic. Can you explain the factors that lead a person to reject salvation when other people choose to accept salvation? As you have consistently avoided doing this, shouldn’t we just conclude that you are clueless (along with all other non-Calvinists).

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      22. There is no mystery. You only create one because your determinism demands it.

        “Two people with free will make opposite decisions.”

        Um, yeah, that would be the free part, and this is not a “decision” it’s being caught in a war with opposing forces pulling you in different directions. Actually, the most natural tendency is to go with the devil you know rather then the God you don’t. New experiences are scary. Letting go of your rebellion is scarier yet.

        ” Can you explain the factors that lead a person to reject salvation when other people choose to accept salvation?”
        I already did numerous times. One person rebels against the spirit the other doesn’t. This is why I say you have no concept of free will or self determination. You don’t really believe we make a choice, but that God forces the choice. You are creating mysterys where there are none. Step out of your closed system where everything has to be pre-determined and see the world as it is.

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      23. Wildswanderer writes, “There is no mystery. You only create one because your determinism demands it.”

        There is no mystery (although your thinking seems a little mysterious) and determinism is not at issue. We simply need to get you to explain your position.

        Then, “… it’s being caught in a war with opposing forces pulling you in different directions. Actually, the most natural tendency is to go with the devil you know rather then the God you don’t.”

        Technically, there can be no opposing forces since you claim that the will is self-determining and immune to external forces that would incline the will in one direction or the other. It is Calvinism that would subscribe to explanations involving opposing forces where one force wins out over the other. I think you may be confused about what you want to believe.

        You claim that two people with free will make different decisions – one to accept salvation and one to reject salvation. Now you add that each has opposing forces pulling them in different directions. If those forces are the same strength for each, then the two people should make the same decision. If they make different decisions then either the opposing forces were different with each or something else results in the different decisions. Regardless, as God knows the forces pulling on a person, God gives one person free will that leads to salvation for one and a free will that leads to reprobation for another as the Calvinist concludes.

        Then, “One person rebels against the spirit the other doesn’t. This is why I say you have no concept of free will or self determination. You don’t really believe we make a choice, but that God forces the choice.”

        You again exhibit confusion. The initial condition is that all people are in rebellion against God. They are both rebelling against the spirit – this attributed to the absence of free will. Your claim is that God grants free will to the person so that person can overcome his rebellion. If one person continues to rebel while another does not, then we attribute this to the last action affecting them both – God’s conveyance of free will. The conclusion would be that God has favored the one over the other knowing the strength of the rebellion in each of them and discriminating in the free will that is given to each.

        I think you are still confused about “free will” and a self-determining will. At least, your explanations don’t jibe with what you seem to want to believe.

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      24. “you claim that the will is self-determining and immune to external forces that would incline the will in one direction or the other”

        Where did I say people are immune to influences? Are you just making this stuff up as you go along? If I am free to make a choice, then I decide which influence to submit to.
        “God gives one person free will that leads to salvation for one and a free will that leads to reprobation for another as the Calvinist concludes.”

        The Calvinist has no idea what free will is, obviously. If free will always lead in one direction, then it isn’t free will, it’s coercion.

        “is that all people are in rebellion against God. They are both rebelling against the spirit – this attributed to the absence of free will.”

        This makes absolutely no sense. They are rebelling because they don’t have free will, but once they are freed, they can no longer make a choice to rebel? Um, Ok? Total nonsense. And it is all about determinism. To say that a person given free will can only choose one way is a direct result of the need to believe God is the author of everything including the rebellion of the one who chooses not to submit.

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      25. wildswanderer writes, “Where did I say people are immune to influences? Are you just making this stuff up as you go along? If I am free to make a choice, then I decide which influence to submit to.”

        If you concede that you are subject to influences from outside, and then your decision reflects one (or more) of those influences, then we can identify that influence to lead to your decision meaning that it determined your decision (this by definition). If you really mean to subscribe to a “self-determining” will, then you should hold that you are not influenced by outside influences and that it is your will that creates its own influences. However, it is true that people are influenced by factors outside the will but that means that the will is not self-determining in those instances. It may be that your concept of a “self-determining will” is not really self-determining.

        Them “The Calvinist has no idea what free will is, obviously. If free will always lead in one direction, then it isn’t free will, it’s coercion.”

        The Calvinist says that a person has free will so long as they are free to choose as they desire. As those desires are controlled by their sinful nature, I guess we can conclude that the person’s sinful nature bends, and coerces, the will to do as it pleases. So Paul says in Ephesians 2, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.”

        Then, “This makes absolutely no sense. They are rebelling because they don’t have free will, but once they are freed, they can no longer make a choice to rebel? Um, Ok? Total nonsense. And it is all about determinism. To say that a person given free will can only choose one way is a direct result of the need to believe God is the author of everything including the rebellion of the one who chooses not to submit.”

        Maybe your concept of a “free” will is deficient. Perhaps, you are not willing to allow the will to interact with the understanding to make decisions based on reason and rational argument. I’m not sure what it is that you are arguing. Maybe you could define how you understand important terms – “free,” “will,” “free will,” “self-determining,” “coercion,” “determinism.”

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      26. “The Calvinist says that a person has free will so long as they are free to choose as they desire. As those desires are controlled by their sinful nature, I guess we can conclude that the person’s sinful nature bends, and coerces, the will to do as it pleases.”

        I just wish you all would be honest enough to drop all the convoluted explanations and admit, that in your system, EVERYTHING is determined by God. Not by your will, not by the sin nature, certainty not by anything that could be called “free” in any sense. Until you drop all the nonsense about our will having any part in the process and concede that in Calvinism it is all God doing everything, including causing the reprobate to choose damnation, then there is nothing to talk about.

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      27. wildswanderer writes, “I just wish you all would be honest enough to drop all the convoluted explanations and admit, that in your system, EVERYTHING is determined by God.”

        Of course, everything is determined by God. By virtue of His sovereignty, God has the final say in all that occurs and what God decrees is what happens. Can you think of an example of anything that God has not determined – something where God did not have the final say?

        Then, “Not by your will, not by the sin nature, certainty not by anything that could be called “free” in any sense. Until you drop all the nonsense about our will having any part in the process and concede that in Calvinism it is all God doing everything, including causing the reprobate to choose damnation, then there is nothing to talk about.”

        Man’s will is subordinate to God’s will. Man chooses damnation; God determines it.

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      28. “Man’s will is subordinate to God’s will. Man chooses damnation; God determines it.”

        Which is the same as God choosing it. Which is why I say you have no concept of libertarian free will. Calvinists should never use the term “free will” because in their system, there is no such thing.
        In a world where free will exists, much of what happens is determined by man’s free choices. Much happens that is directly against God’s will. That is the world I live in.

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      29. wildswanderer writes, “Which is the same as God choosing it.”

        How do you get to that conclusion? Man chooses subject to God’s approval of that choice. That is not God choosing what a person will do; it is only God confirming that which a person chooses to do.

        Then, “Which is why I say you have no concept of libertarian free will.”

        How about you providing a lucid definition of “libertarian free will” that resolves any misunderstanding about LFW.

        Then, “Calvinists should never use the term “free will” because in their system, there is no such thing.”

        Of course there is. Under Calvinism, people freely choose to do that which they want. The uniqueness of Calvinism is that it recognizes the influence of external forces in shaping the choices people make. This is easily seen in the case of salvation where God draws the individual to Christ, the Holy Spirit convicts the individual of their sin, God opens the heart of the individual so that they are receptive to the gospel, and God incites His prophets to go out to preach the gospel, etc. It is clear that, absent the working of God to bring a person to salvation, none would ever be saved – take away God’s efforts and none are saved.

        Finally, “In a world where free will exists, much of what happens is determined by man’s free choices. Much happens that is directly against God’s will. That is the world I live in.”

        OK. At the least, you can call yourself a Calvinist.

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      30. So, you disagree with Piper that everything is God’s will? Even each and ever letter we chose in scrabble and certainly every sin we commit?

        Because there is no way to fit this:
        “much of what happens is determined by man’s free choices. Much happens that is directly against God’s will.”

        with believing everything is God’s will. Compatibilist Calvinists try to embrace a contradiction, that everything is both God’s will and that many things aren’t, so we get convoluted notions from Calvinism like the two wills of God.

        “That is not God choosing what a person will do; it is only God confirming that which a person chooses to do.”

        That’s a riot, considering that you have stated multiple times that everything that happens comes from God determining it before creation. If God has already determined everything I will do, I choose nothing, I only have the illusion of choice, which is worse then no choice at all, because now, God is being deceitful, by making it appear as if I have freedom.

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      31. wildswanderer writes, “So, you disagree with Piper that everything is God’s will? Even each and ever letter we chose in scrabble and certainly every sin we commit?”

        I agree with Piper. God commands that people not sin; people sin yet that sin cannot occur without God’s decision (decree) that it should happen. Because of this Calvinists identify two aspects of God’s will. There is God’s will expressed in His commands through which God tells people how they should behave. There is also God’s will expressed in His decrees regarding how people actually choose to behave.

        Then, “Compatibilist Calvinists try to embrace a contradiction, that everything is both God’s will and that many things aren’t, so we get convoluted notions from Calvinism like the two wills of God.”

        I don’t think you understand God’s will or compatibilism. I think pretty much everyone understands that God will that people not sin (Be ye perfect) differs from His will that people be free to sin if that is their desire.

        Then, “…everything that happens comes from God determining it before creation….”

        I gather that you have been swayed by Brian and are not rejecting the notion that God is omniscience.

        Finally, “If God has already determined everything I will do, I choose nothing,”

        Then, how does it come about that you do anything at all? As God determines that you be free to choose and does not force or cause you to do one thing or another, if you choose nothing then God determines that nothing happens.

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      32. “There is God’s will expressed in His commands through which God tells people how they should behave. There is also God’s will expressed in His decrees regarding how people actually choose to behave.”

        But this is not consistent with Calvinism, where God has decided beforehand that men will do exactly what he determines, not some of the time, but every time. If God pre- decides all our actions, then they are his will and it is foolishness to say that we have freedom. In simple foreknowledge and Molinism, God foresees the future that will be, a future partly decided by men’s actions. (In foreknowlede, he only sees this future after deciding to create.)

        In determinism, however, he only foresees once he decrees everything that will happen. Therefore, he decides what our every action will be and we decide nothing. You can’t have it both ways. Either it is all God’s will or not. Splitting God’s will in two is just nonsense and makes God two faced.

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      33. wildswanderer writes, “But this is not consistent with Calvinism, where God has decided beforehand that men will do exactly what he determines, not some of the time, but every time. If God pre- decides all our actions, then they are his will and it is foolishness to say that we have freedom. In simple foreknowledge and Molinism, God foresees the future that will be, a future partly decided by men’s actions. (In foreknowlede, he only sees this future after deciding to create.)

        In determinism, however, he only foresees once he decrees everything that will happen. Therefore, he decides what our every action will be and we decide nothing. You can’t have it both ways. Either it is all God’s will or not. Splitting God’s will in two is just nonsense and makes God two faced.”

        I have no idea what your objection is. That God determines that a person will do X one month from now in no way detracts from the freedom with which the person chooses to do X. God certainly decides what we will do but people are the ones who choose. God does not give people ideas about what they might do; people come up with these things out of their sinful natures. God does not cause a person to do any particular deed (there are exceptions as when Satan tempted David to number Israel when Satan entered Judas to bring about the betrayal, when God sent a lying spirit to deceive Ahab (I think)). For the most part, God must restrain sinful people from being as sinful as they want. God was in the garden when Satan deceived Eve; God did not interfere in those events thereby determining the outcome, but Eve freely interacted with Satan and freely chose to eat the fruit – God did not have to ’cause” her to do anything.

        You seem to have the wrong understanding of the term, “determine,” as in “God determines X.” Can you tell us how you are defining the term, “determine.”

        If God foresees the future, necessarily, God has determined that future.

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      34. “If God foresees the future, necessarily, God has determined that future.”
        You have never provided any solid reason why this has to be true, and I find it a logical fallacy. You seem unable to comprehend the difference between God deciding something for us and us deciding something by our own self determination and God allowing it. There is a vast difference. In the first, yes, God is the main cause, and I’m just along for the ride, and my choosing is not mine at all. In the other, I’m the cause of my actions.

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      35. I wrote, “If God foresees the future, necessarily, God has determined that future.”
        wildswanderer responded, You have never provided any solid reason why this has to be true,…”

        It derives from God being sovereign and the basic definition of sovereignty. That definition states that God is able to govern His creation in its entirety without interference or hindrance from forces outside Himself. A good description is Daniel 4, ” God’s dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No-one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” That means that God has the final say on all that happens in His kingdom – God is the final arbiter. Nothing happens without God ruling on whether that outcome is to happen without interference from Him or that He will change the outcome. To say that God knows that X will happen in the future is to say that God has ruled on it so that the outcome is certain; it is certain because God has determined it (ruled one way or the other) to be consistent with His sovereign.

        If you think about this a little, you will discover the same thing Brian discovered – you cannot let God know the future without also making God the determiner of the future.

        Them, “…and I find it a logical fallacy. ”

        It would help if you identified the logical fallacy and explained how you see it occurring.

        Then, “You seem unable to comprehend the difference between God deciding something for us and us deciding something by our own self determination and God allowing it.”

        By saying “…God allowing it,” you have said that man’s choice is subordinate to God’s choice. That means that man proposes subject to God disposing. Man seeks to do X, and God then decides whether man should do X without interference form Him or man should be restrained and another outcome approved. I think you need to use terminology other than “God allowing,” as that makes God the final arbiter of what happens which is my contention. Can you describe the “difference” you see between God deciding (determining) and God allowing? Use an example if you can.

        Then, “There is a vast difference. In the first, yes, God is the main cause, and I’m just along for the ride, and my choosing is not mine at all. In the other, I’m the cause of my actions.”

        This basically says what you want to believe. Can you explain how you think this comes about – without God being the final arbiter of what happens (i.e., not determining (allowing) the final outcome).

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      36. You’re taking a very simple concept and making it extremely complicated. If God has truly given freedom, then most of what happens is allowed by him but not caused. It is caused by men’s free actions. If God decides he wants to see the future without controlling all of man’s actions, he can do exactly that. He does not have to rule over every sin or every good deed like some kind of helicopter parent. And you miss the fact that we are in Christ and will rule with him and that we share in His authority even now. You make God out to be an all controlling tyrant instead of the loving Father that is described in scripture.
        Of course, not one of us knows exactly how God works behind the scenes, but we know he responds to prayers and that he puts himself in the vulnerable position of depending on his creation to spread his Word. Starting in Genesis, we see that God works in relationships more then in raw power and looks like Jesus, not the tyrant of determinism.

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      37. wildswanderer writes, “If God has truly given freedom, then most of what happens is allowed by him but not caused. It is caused by men’s free actions.”

        That is the Calvinist position.

        Then, “If God decides he wants to see the future without controlling all of man’s actions, he can do exactly that.”

        The problem has been to conceive a way for God to do that while preserving His omniscience. People make a statement like you do, but have no idea how it could happen.

        Then, “He does not have to rule over every sin or every good deed like some kind of helicopter parent.”

        By virtue of His sovereignty, God cannot avoid ruling on every action of people. It is impossible.

        Then, “You make God out to be an all controlling tyrant instead of the loving Father that is described in scripture.”

        God is sovereign – no way to avoid that. God is in complete control of His creation and rules benevolently.

        Then, “Of course, not one of us knows exactly how God works behind the scenes, but we know he responds to prayers and that he puts himself in the vulnerable position of depending on his creation to spread his Word. Starting in Genesis, we see that God works in relationships more then in raw power and looks like Jesus, not the tyrant of determinism. ”

        That’s the basic Calvinist position. So, good start and good finish to your comment.

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      38. “If God has truly given freedom, then most of what happens is allowed by him but not caused. It is caused by men’s free actions.”
        That is the Calvinist position.”

        Not according to Calvin:
        “What many talk of bare prescience [foreknowledge] is the merest trifling. Those do not err quite so grossly who attribute government to God, but still, as I have observed, a confused and promiscuous government which consists in giving an impulse and general movement to the machine of the globe and each of its parts, but does not specially direct the action of every creature.”2

        If God “specially directs the action of every creature.” then it is ridiculous to talk of man having any freedom.

        “By virtue of His sovereignty, God cannot avoid ruling on every action of people. It is impossible.”

        If you keep God in that little box of yours, he can’t do much of anything. He becomes as much as an automation as you suppose his creatures are.

        “That’s the basic Calvinist position. So, good start and good finish to your comment.”

        And just how does the Calvinist God put himself in a vulnerable position of depending on his creatures if he decides beforehand who will be saved and who will be damned? The gospel becomes completely irrelevant and unnecessary in your system. And the god in your box can’t respond to prayers because he is immutable and can’t respond to anything.

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      39. wildswanderer writes, “If God “specially directs the action of every creature.” then it is ridiculous to talk of man having any freedom.”

        Can you explain why your conclusion might be true? There is no reason to think that God causes or forces a person to do anything. All that God need do is restrain the sin that a person freely seeks to do. I don’t see an argument here for your position.

        Then, “If you keep God in that little box of yours, he can’t do much of anything. He becomes as much as an automation as you suppose his creatures are.”

        How do you see a little box here? God is sovereign – He does whatever He wants and can affect anything He wants. There is no restraint on God’s freedom. In what sense would God ever be an automaton??

        Then, “And just how does the Calvinist God put himself in a vulnerable position of depending on his creatures if he decides beforehand who will be saved and who will be damned?”

        The idea that God needs to be vulnerable is an urban myth. It was derived by a vivid imagination. Again, unless you are going to deny sovereignty, your position is not tenable.

        Finally, “The gospel becomes completely irrelevant and unnecessary in your system. And the god in your box can’t respond to prayers because he is immutable and can’t respond to anything.”

        This is pure make believe on your part. You cannot argue against Calvinism, so you make stuff up. Argue the issues and stop creating strawmen because you cannot argue your position.

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      40. “The idea that God needs to be vulnerable is an urban myth.”

        Then why did you just say that my statement about God making himself vulnerable was the Calvinist position?

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      41. wildswanderer asks, “Then why did you just say that my statement about God making himself vulnerable was the Calvinist position?”

        You originally said, “…[God] puts himself in the vulnerable position…” That God puts Himself in a vulnerable “position” is very, very different than God making Himself vulnerable. One can be quite capable but purposely take a vulnerable position.

        So, I said that Calvinism agrees that God puts Himself in a vulnerable position; your attempt to make this to mean that God makes himself vulnerable doesn’t fly. You tried a little sleight of hand and got caught – your bad.

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      42. wildswanderer writes, “If I put myself in a vulnerable position I don’t make myself vulnerable? I have no idea what you are talking about.”

        God is never vulnerable; He is God. God cannot put Himself in danger in any sense of the word. God can put Himself in a vulnerable position – using people as the means to spread the gospel – thereby making His plans vulnerable to failure (if that were even possible).

        Regardless, what idea are you trying to convey about God in saying that He can be vulnerable? In what sense do you see God being vulnerable?

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      43. Well, there was that cross incident…God makes Himself vulnerable from the beginning of the Bible on, by making it possible for his creatures to reject him. This is too obvious – when we see Jesus’ exampleof who God is- to have to explain it, it’s everywhere in scripture..

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      44. wildswanderer writes, “God makes Himself vulnerable from the beginning of the Bible on, by making it possible for his creatures to reject him.”

        Is it your intent to deny that God is omniscient – God knows those who will reject Him from Day 1. So, obviously, God makes it possible for His creatures to reject Him – as we see, all reject God. However, given that God knows all this from Day 1 and purposely creates the world setting into motion those events that will result in all people rejecting Him, in what sense do you see God making Himself vulnerable – after all, God’s plan will prevail. I do not understand why you are using the term, “vulnerable” (applying to God and not to a position He takes or His use of people to spread the gospel) and what concept you are trying to convey by using it. What is your point?

        Then, “This is too obvious – when we see Jesus’ example of who God is- to have to explain it, it’s everywhere in scripture.. ”

        I have no idea what point you are trying to make nor does this comment make sense in context with the ongoing discussion.

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      45. It makes perfect sense in the context of this discussion, because it is the crux of the matter. You propose that God’s will is always done on this earth, which I propose is nonsense in light of scripture. God foreknowing that people would reject him and yet going through with with creation knowing what it would cost him-that is the logical and scriptural view. Your view has God manipulating all events so his will would be done in all things, and never making himself vulnerable, never failing to bring about exactly what he wills. If this were the case, one has to wonder why sin would be allowed or why the cross would be needed and just what is the point of Jesus’ sacrifice if God’s will is already being done in all things. No, what scripture says is that he will reign UNTIL all his enemies are under his feet. This is a bloody battle, not a pre-scripted world where God always gets his way.

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      46. wildswanderer writes, “You propose that God’s will is always done on this earth, which I propose is nonsense in light of scripture.”

        Then the issue is sovereignty – particularly our definitions of sovereignty. Under my definition of sovereignty, God rules His creation absolutely so that nothing happens without His knowledge and therefore, nothing happens that is outside His will. You have a different definition of sovereignty – whatever it may be.

        Then, “God foreknowing that people would reject him and yet going through with with creation knowing what it would cost him-that is the logical and scriptural view.”

        What is the cost to God? God knows exactly what will happen before it happens. If there were a “cost,” it is because God wants that outcome. Nonetheless, what is this “cost” you write about?

        Then, “Your view has God manipulating all events so his will would be done in all things, and never making himself vulnerable, never failing to bring about exactly what he wills. If this were the case, one has to wonder why sin would be allowed or why the cross would be needed and just what is the point of Jesus’ sacrifice if God’s will is already being done in all things.”

        At what point, or in what event, in human history do you see God not personally involved? Can you give an example? If God failed to bring about His will, He would not be sovereign (under my definition).

        Finally, “No, what scripture says is that he will reign UNTIL all his enemies are under his feet. This is a bloody battle, not a pre-scripted world where God always gets his way.”

        God is omnipotent – there are no bloody battles with God. God may oversee battles fought among people, and these may be bloody. No enemy of God has a chance in a fight with God – it’s over before it starts.

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      47. “What is the cost to God?”
        Is this a serious question? The basis of Christianity is that our redemption cost God His Son.
        On the other hand, it makes perfect sense, that in your system, this isn’t even a consideration, but it makes one wonder what God you are worshiping. The one that is responsible for all evil? That god isn’t worthy of worship and doesn’t look anything like Jesus.
        I don’t believe God was “personally involved” in the evil of the holocaust or the evil of child abuse or murder or any other sin, precisely because I believe in the God of the Bible, not the god of philosophy. And these truths about God’s sinless nature aren’t up for debate, so I’m done.

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      48. Wildswanderer wrote, “God foreknowing that people would reject him and yet going through with with creation knowing what it would cost him-that is the logical and scriptural view.”
        I asked, “What is the cost to God?”
        He responded, “Is this a serious question? The basis of Christianity is that our redemption cost God His Son.”

        All you are saying is that God knew that people would reject Him and He planned to send Christ to the cross (the “cost”) in order to purchase His elect. That is the Calvinist position. It appeared that you wanted to differentiate a non-Calvinist position.

        Them “I don’t believe God was “personally involved” in the evil of the holocaust or the evil of child abuse or murder or any other sin, precisely because I believe in the God of the Bible, not the god of philosophy. And these truths about God’s sinless nature aren’t up for debate, so I’m done.”

        You say that God was not “personally involved” in these events yet you know that God was there observing everything that happened. You also know that God could have intervened at any time to prevent what He was observing. You also know that God, because He is sovereign, had to make a conscious decision not to intervene and to allow those events to proceed (for Brian’s benefit, we know that God knew all this in eternity past). God knew that He could prevent this evil and chose not to do so. I don’t think you can say that God was not personally involved unless you define personally involved as taking an active part in the evil. It seems pretty personal to me if you see someone committing evil; you know you have the power to stop it; and you consciously choose to do nothing.

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      49. “If God “specially directs the action of every creature.” then it is ridiculous to talk of man having any freedom.”
        “Can you explain why your conclusion might be true?”

        Again and again you want to have your cake and eat it too. You want to say that God both gives freedom yet meticulously controls everything we do, down us only thinking the thoughts that originating in God’s mind. Again, read this slowly, if God decreed every thought I would ever think before creation, I can never be said to be doing anything of my own free will. It’s an impossible contradiction that you just continue to argue for. In fact, you continue to contradict yourself in almost every post.
        Your view of what sovereignty means that God has to direct every atom and brain cell and yet you want to talk about freedom?
        If I brain wash you to do exactly what I want you to, do you have freedom? Really? The more you try to make this reasonable, the more absurd it becomes to me.Perhaps you should just accept that God has not destined me to be a determinist.

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      50. wildswanderer writes, “Again, read this slowly, if God decreed every thought I would ever think before creation, I can never be said to be doing anything of my own free will. It’s an impossible contradiction that you just continue to argue for. In fact, you continue to contradict yourself in almost every post.”

        That this is a false claim. This is why. Your thoughts are generated by your own mind consistent with your nature, knowledge, experiences, etc. and can be influenced by outside forces – Satan, things you read or see, a pretty girl, an ugly dog, etc. God is able to guard your thoughts and protect you from sinful influences – God is omnipotent. As God is omniscient, He knows not only the desires and designs of the sinful nature but the influences of outside forces. God who has the power to restrain a person’s thoughts and the evil desires that can consume them during the day. It is God who decides whether to restrain particular thoughts and not allow them to enter the mind or to leave a person at the mercy of his nature and external influences. That which God decides – to protect or not protect; to retrain or not restrain – is His decree. God’s decisions – His decrees – always precede that which happens in a person’s life including His decrees regarding the thoughts that enter a perosn’s mind.

        Of course, the elephant in the room is your definition of “free will,” that you have, so far, been unable to articulate. Thus, it is really impossible to know what your true objection is. Because you cannot explain what you mean by “free will,” it is impossible for you to claim a contradiction of that “free will” as you do above. It helps to explain why you cannot support the claims you make with any form of logical argument – you are left making claim after claim.

        Then, “Your view of what sovereignty means that God has to direct every atom and brain cell and yet you want to talk about freedom?’

        Certainly sovereignty means that God CAN direct every atom and brain cell. The question is whether God, because of that sovereignty, can avoid doing so. Again, we cannot speak of “freedom” until you figure out what you mean when you use that term.

        Then, “If I brain wash you to do exactly what I want you to, do you have freedom? Really? The more you try to make this reasonable, the more absurd it becomes to me.Perhaps you should just accept that God has not destined me to be a determinist.”

        Brainwashing is not part of determinism with respect to God – God does not brainwash nor is it necessary that God do so in order to determine all things. This is just one of your pet strawmen that you throw out because you lack arguments to support your claims.

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      51. It makes no difference if I arrange everything in your life so that you can do nothing but what I cause you to do through arranging everything or if I actively brainwash you to do only what I want you to. The result is exactly the same. However, in the Calvinist system, EVERYTHING first comes from God’s mind, so this argument doesn’t wash.
        This is irrefutable, not up for debate by any serious Calvinist. He decided what sins I should commit before creation, not by seeing what I would do, but by crafting sins specifically for me. As Calvin puts it:
        “Hence we conclude that every evil which they [the reprobate — those whom God chose not to elect unto salvation] bear is inflicted by the most just judgment of God.3”
        So, yes, according to Calvin, we are brain washed to commit the sins we commit. We don’t get a choice, which should be obvious to you anyways, since you already say that we only think the thoughts God wants us to think.
        Now, yes, unregenerate people are slaves to their sinful nature. But, God did not craft or choose those sins for them. He hates our sin and desires to red us of it. Jesus makes it clear that his desire is and was freedom for the captives, (Luke 4:18) that he wanted to gather Israel to him, but they “would not”Matt 23:37)

        If you don’t know what freedom means, I suggest you look it up.

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      52. wildswanderer writes, “However, in the Calvinist system, EVERYTHING first comes from God’s mind, so this argument doesn’t wash.
        This is irrefutable, not up for debate by any serious Calvinist. ”

        There is nothing that can happen that would be new to God. God creates man with the capability to sin. Even though God knows all sin – because He knows everything (God is omniscient) – sin does not come from God other than by His decree to give people the freedom to sin which freedom is always subordinate to God’s freedom (God can restrain the sin that people do).

        Then, “He decided what sins I should commit before creation, not by seeing what I would do, but by crafting sins specifically for me. As Calvin puts it:
        ‘Hence we conclude that every evil which they [the reprobate — those whom God chose not to elect unto salvation] bear is inflicted by the most just judgment of God.3’”
        So, yes, according to Calvin, we are brain washed to commit the sins we commit. We don’t get a choice, which should be obvious to you anyways, since you already say that we only think the thoughts God wants us to think.”

        Not brainwashed by God. Remember Genesis 3. Satan deceived Eve and she ate the fruit. God gave Eve the freedom to choose how to respond to Satan’s deception. God did not brainwash Eve causing her to eat the fruit. God purposely decided to give Eve this freedom in eternity past and God knew in eternity past that Eve would use her freedom to choose to eat the fruit. So it is with every action of the reprobate.

        In what sense are you saying that Eve was brainwashed? Can you explain God’s role in making Eve eat the fruit (under the Calvinist system)?

        Then, “Now, yes, unregenerate people are slaves to their sinful nature. But, God did not craft or choose those sins for them. He hates our sin and desires to red us of it. Jesus makes it clear that his desire is and was freedom for the captives, (Luke 4:18) that he wanted to gather Israel to him, but they “would not”Matt 23:37)”

        You don’t mean to deny that God is omniscient do you (that would mean that you are brianwashed)? If you are not denying omniscience, I don’t know what your issue is.

        Finally, “If you don’t know what freedom means, I suggest you look it up.”

        I don’t know what you mean when you use the term, “freedom.” I could look it up, but the dictionary does not explain what you think. You have a definition of freedom that you claim cannot exist with God’s sovereignty. That definition seems to be unique to yourself – something that came out of your imagination.

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      53. No, no, you don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. God can’t decree my every sin and not be responsible for my sin.You keep flip flopping all over the place to keep from admitting that God is directly responsible for all sin in Calvinism. We’ve already established that in Calvinism, everything first has to be God’s will, come from God’s mind, be part of God or it can’t happen. So, quit asking silly questions that have no meaning, like how does this effect Eve eating the fruit? It means she ate it because God made her eat it as surely as if he’d stuffed it down her throat. She had no other option, in your scenario.
        And I believe God is sovereign, but sovereign does not mean all controlling. Look it up on something other then a Calvinist site.

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      54. wildswanderer writes, “God can’t decree my every sin and not be responsible for my sin.”

        OK. I see no problem with God taking responsibility for sin as He is sovereign and has the power to prevent sin but decrees not to do so.

        However, the real issue seems to be that you think God cause people to sin by His decrees. So, let’s agree that God is fully responsible for sin and get back on track.

        Then, “You keep flip flopping all over the place to keep from admitting that God is directly responsible for all sin in Calvinism. We’ve already established that in Calvinism, everything first has to be God’s will, come from God’s mind, be part of God or it can’t happen. So, quit asking silly questions that have no meaning, like how does this effect Eve eating the fruit? It means she ate it because God made her eat it as surely as if he’d stuffed it down her throat. She had no other option, in your scenario.”

        Here you mix responsibility with causality. I fully admit that God is responsible for sin and have never flipped on that issue.

        Your claim that God made Eve eat the fruit is false. Eve freely chose to eat the fruit and God did not make her do so. She had other options, but because God is omniscient, He knew the option Eve would choose. Can you explain how you get to the conclusion that God made Eve eat the fruit?

        Are you sure that you have not rejected the notion that God is omniscient? Your arguments make no sense if you have God being omniscient.

        Then, “And I believe God is sovereign, but sovereign does not mean all controlling. Look it up on something other then a Calvinist site.”

        Sovereignty means that God can be all controlling – unless you want to deny that God is omnipotent. Sovereignty means that it is God who chooses to be all controlling or to grant freedom to people to choose what they will do (and here God can restrict the options available to them). Sovereignty means that no event happens that God does not know about and God gets to decide the degree to which He will control any event – from preventing the event to allowing natural, sinful forces to play out without interference from Him.

        What definition of sovereignty are you using?

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      55. “Eve freely chose to eat the fruit and God did not make her do so. She had other options, but because God is omniscient, He knew the option Eve would choose.”

        Your appeal to foreknowledge is irrelevant, given that foreknowledge is subject to God’s decree in your system. Again, you flip flop and are inconsistent with your stated theology. She had no other options in a deterministic world then the one option that God had pre-decided for her. If God left her with no other options, then, yes, her choice is caused by God.

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      56. wildswanderer writes, “If God left her with no other options, then, yes, her choice is caused by God.”

        As God is omniscient – my definition – He knows, with certainty, every event in the future. William L. Craig wrote a small book showing that God’s knowledge of the future is not the cause of that future.

        You need to show that God’s knowledge of Eve’s choice caused her to make her choice. I doubt that you can. Another unsupported claim.

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      57. I never said God’s knowledge of the future caused her choice. You continue to ignore the obvious, that if God decrees before he knows, then everything that happens is from his hand and inevitable.
        I’m done, this argument would have a point if you even considered stepping outside your system of thought for a moment and seeing the Bible as most people read it, without imposing determinism onto it.

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      58. wildswanderer writes, “I never said God’s knowledge of the future caused her choice.”

        You said, “Your appeal to foreknowledge is irrelevant, given that foreknowledge is subject to God’s decree in your system….She had no other options in a deterministic world then the one option that God had pre-decided for her. If God left her with no other options, then, yes, her choice is caused by God.”

        The cause cannot be His decree since that is only a decision to be followed up by some action to enforce the decree. Certainly God did nothing to physically cause Eve to eat; God was just observing the action. So, what are you talking about? What force in the deterministic world do you identify as the cause of Eve eating the fruit? Can you tell us how you see, “her choice is caused by God”? You also said, “if God decrees before he knows, then everything that happens is from his hand and inevitable.” That’s true but what “cause” do you see being from God’s hand.

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      59. Rhutchin, Yes, one could worship a false God. But one could also look at creation and want to know the creator God. And the moral law means he may also know that he sins (or falls short).

        I don’t doubt Romans which you quote. But you assume too much. Romans talks about cultural decay. But he says that such men abandon women. Is every pagan a sodomite? The fact that this is a tendency does not mean there is no one who tries to respond to God calling them through natural revelation. How about Brian’s examples of Elihu and Job? What about others pre-Christ? Have you read accounts of missionaries meeting other cultures and them already have a knowledge of the truth (however primitive)?

        Why do you think that God is able to use natural revelation to condemn but he is not able to use it to convict and lead to repentance?

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      60. bethyada writes, “Yes, one could worship a false God. But one could also look at creation and want to know the creator God.”

        To that we agree. The issue then becomes the influence of depravity in preventing this.

        Then, “And the moral law means he may also know that he sins (or falls short).”

        Maybe not. Paul says, “…the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” I think Paul had in mind the law of God and not necessarily a general moral law that men might develop to maintain some sense of order in society. Take Roman law, as an example. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship that gave him a powerful advantage as opposed to those who did not have Roman citizenship. A moral law of men might discriminate between various people under its rule. God’s law applies uniformly to each and every person and is enforced by God ultimately through His judgment of those who disobey. That law also points to God and gives meaning to disobedience that might not exist under man’s mortal law.

        In John 16, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit coming after His death to convict the world of sin. Without that conviction would a person have any real sense of their sin? I tend to think not – this because of their depravity.

        Then, “Romans talks about cultural decay. But he says that such men abandon women. Is every pagan a sodomite?”

        I think Paul spoke of society in total as he refers to “…all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…” Not all are sodomites, but sodomy/homosexuality is pervasive in society.

        Then, “The fact that this is a tendency does not mean there is no one who tries to respond to God calling them through natural revelation.”

        No, it does not preclude it. However, later Paul says that “None seek God.”

        Then, “How about Brian’s examples of Elihu and Job? What about others pre-Christ? Have you read accounts of missionaries meeting other cultures and them already have a knowledge of the truth (however primitive)?”

        I tend to see the hand of God in such events.

        Finally, “Why do you think that God is able to use natural revelation to condemn but he is not able to use it to convict and lead to repentance?”

        God can use natural revelation for any purpose He wants. However, God tells us that He doesn’t by telling us that He uses His law to lead people to Christ and uses the Holy Spirit to convict of sin (presupposing the effectiveness of the law in leading).

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      61. Acts 17:26-27 And he [God] made from one man every nation [every ethnic group] of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they SHOULD SEEK God, and perhaps feel their way toward him AND FIND HIM. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

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      62. The key words are “SHOULD” and “perhaps.”

        Of course, the expected result is that all would seek God and find God – as the Universalist claims will actually happen. The great conundrum is that all do not seem to do so – that contrary to reason, some are lost. How are we to explain that? The only explanation is that offered by the Calvinists (and agreed to by the Arminians) – the depravity of the person gets in the way making them irrational.

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      63. Verse 26 clearly indicates it was God’s design with the clear purpose that all ethic groups would have the possibility to seek, touch and find Him.

        The ESV I quoted tried to water it down, but the infinitive they translate “should seek ” is clearly an infinitive of purpose, and the particles they translate “perhaps”, are inferential, intensive, and expect the reality of the premise they introduce – “since then indeed”.

        The optatatives “touch” and “find” do not introduce probability, but they do introduce possibility, especially in conjunction with the last truth statement… “He is not far from any”. God is only a prayer of repentance away.

        The point is that God determined everyone to be able to seek and find Him, and He commands everyone everywhere to repent and meet Him. He determined this seeking and finding to be synergistic… Praise His Name!

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      64. brianwagner writes, “Verse 26 clearly indicates it was God’s design with the clear purpose that all ethic groups would have the possibility to seek, touch and find Him.”

        Everyone agrees to that. So, what happens then – Do they seek God? Paul, in Romans, says that they do not. God intends one thing – it doesn’t happen. Why not?

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      65. Paul’s one verse in Romans quoting from Psalms does not overturn the fact that men do seek God based on His initiatives, like the ones we are discussing in His use of His general revelation. No one seeks God without those gracious helps that He supplies to all at various times.

        You and I sought God. Does that mean Paul was lying in Rom 3? Of course not.

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      66. brianwagner asks “You and I sought God. Does that mean Paul was lying in Rom 3? Of course not.”

        Obviously – because it is as you explain: “…men do seek God based on His initiatives,…No one seeks God without those gracious helps that He supplies to all at various times. ”

        So, you are affirming that Paul is correct. No person ever seeks God in their depraved state as Paul says in quoting the truth of the Psalm. It is only after God does something to bring the person to salvation that a person comes to salvation.

        The real issue concerns those who continue to reject the gospel. Did God extend any help to these people? You might speculate that God did, but you could never rise above speculation as you cannot point to any evidence that God did anything for that person.

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      67. Roger, I have been showing the clear evidence in Scripture that God did indeed do just that, giving help for every person! But your loyalty to the false dichotomy of a prechosen group of individuals or a prechosen universalism makes it hard for you to see the undetermined synergism that the Scripture teaches.

        And so you reject the evidence we have been discussing from passages such as Job 33, Acts 17, Rom 1-2, iTim 2, 2Pet 3, etc. There is not much more I think I can say that will help. 😦

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      68. brianwagner writes, “I have been showing the clear evidence in Scripture that God did indeed do just that, giving help for every person!”

        The initial position of all people is that none seek God. Your claim is that God helps all people such that all people can now seek Him. What happens? Some do and some do not. Why? Either God discriminated between people giving sufficient help to some to guarantee that they would seek Him but not to others or some other variable is in play. As neither you nor anyone else has come up with another variable, we have only the Calvinist explanation – God discriminates in the help He gives.

        Then, “And so you reject the evidence we have been discussing from passages such as Job 33, Acts 17, Rom 1-2, 1Tim 2, 2Pet 3, etc. There is not much more I think I can say that will help.”

        We differ on the manner in which these Scriptures are to be taken. However, let’s assume that you are correct in your exegesis. What happens in that case? Do all seek God? Or do some seek God and some do not? If God helps each and every person, how is it that at least one person changes his behavior dramatically and begins to seek God while others who are given the same help do not exhibit any change in behavior? Unanswered questions!

        I think that there is much more that can be done on this issue besides citing specially selected Scriptures that seem to agree with the conclusion you want.

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      69. I did mention the “other variable”, but we won’t go over that old ground again my friend! Have a restful freedom loving Memorial Day!

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      70. brianwagner writes, “I did mention the “other variable”,… ”

        I think it went over my head.

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      71. 🙂 Read the sentence about your loyalty to a false dichotomy again, but this time read it all the way to the end! 🙂

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      72. “But your loyalty to the false dichotomy of a prechosen group of individuals or a prechosen universalism makes it hard for you to see the undetermined synergism that the Scripture teaches.”

        The false dichotomy being that God is omniscient even with regard to the future – I was making it more complicated than it is. It was all of those big words that confused me.

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  4. / The analogy is to remind us not to over spiritualized and theologize how God works in our world. He works through MEANS! The Holy Spirit works by the means of the gospel!/ Wow, I really like that! If only the Calvinist understood this.

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  5. Pastor Flowers writes, “The Holy Spirit works by the means of the gospel! It baffles me as to why anyone would presume those means just are not enough?

    In conclusion, have you notice what the Arminian has conceded to the Calvinist in maintaining the unfounded belief that mankind has somehow loss His moral capacity to respond willingly to God’s own inspired revelation? All of the arguments that we have expounded upon here on Soteriology 101 about Christ’s parables, the Messianic Secret and God’s judicial hardening of Israel so as to ensure redemption are GONE if we concede the point of Total Inability. ”

    Absent hearing the gospel, does unsaved man have the moral ability to accept salvation? The Arminian and Calvinist say, No, where lack of hearing reflects the need to physically hear the gospel preached and the spiritual need to understand the significance of what is physically heard – thus, the conclusion about Total Inability. Even though you deny Total Inability you seem to grant the unsaved the ability to accept salvation absent the gospel (moral ability) but he cannot because he lacks the natural ability (he needs to physically hear the gospel preached). You seem to subscribe to a form of inability (natural ability), just not Total (natural and moral). I know you don’t like to hear this, but that is a basic Pelagian position.

    Of course, there is the continuing need to explain how two different people physically hearing the gospel preached can have two opposing reactions to that gospel. If the Scriptures are able to make one wise unto salvation presumably as it “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; [and] judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” then it seems that the Universalist is correct and all who hear the gospel preached should be saved else that gospel was not able to penetrate and is not sufficient to make one wise unto salvation.

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  6. Hm, I find this particular topic and debate very interesting, as you know I’ve previously written here on it at (far too much probably mostly unread) length.

    My Arminians friends, please, I beg of you, simply take just one more step in the right direction so as to topple the T of the Calvinistic TULIP.

    It seems you want to topple a version of T, not T itself. As far as I know you do believe everyone are (is?) inescapably born sinners. To topple T itself is catastrophic spiritually, in my eyes, being so bold as to attack the core grace of being crucified on the Cross and the core problem of internal sin in Adam. It seems rather you want to reject all versions of T where T means that the Gospel cannot be understood and recieved by any man, inherently, that is where T excludes all extra graces outside the Gospel itself. That’s not quite “toppling T” which language frankly terrifies me.

    Likewise, would it be reasonable to call the text from my wife “insufficient?” Of course not.
    Well, if you were in love with another woman and didn’t even beileve your wife exists, I would say a text from said supposed wife would not be enough. If I run into your room, and you consider yourself unmarried and in love with the girl next door, and I say “Your wife just texted you to come have dinner!” you would look at me, laugh, think “what kind of prank is my friend pulling” and walk out of the room without another glance.

    This is the Biblical state of sinful man in the world—Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, who by nature serve the lusts of the flesh and the mind. They don’t know they have a wife. They are in love with another woman. They need just a little teeny tiny bit more than a text from a wife they don’t believe in, while they are in love with another woman.

    It baffles me as to why anyone would presume those means are somehow insufficient to accomplish their stated purpose.
    It’s because we see the Biblical role of the Holy Spirit.

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor…. full stop?

    He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

    This is what we say the Spirit does “preveniently,” because the strongman guards the house of the sinner. When Adam fell, he didn’t trip and stub his toe. The chasm between this fallen world and a holy God is incredible. We have the Spirit being upon Jesus (and Jesus was tested and empowered before he ever preached the Gospel with power) to give the power of “recovery of sight to the blind” and the “deliverance of the captives” and to “relieve the oppressed.” The Spirit has a big job to do along with the Gospel proclamation, he is the Applier of the Covenant of the year of YHWH’s favor.

    Do away with the unbiblical and illogical presumption that fallen men cannot morally respond to God’s own inspired appeals to be reconciled from that fall because they are fallen.
    There is a crux of the matter that is constantly overlooked here in this discussion. The matter being debated is not the external truth that all men can respond to Gospel truth—both sides fully accept that. The matter under dispute is the internal, invisible necessary means by which that Gospel is elucidated and the gracious appeal of the wooing and drawing of the Spirit is applied. Can I go, say, to my sinner friend who is drinking and smoking and standing still with no emotions, yell out at the top of my voice “DEAR SINNER HERE IS YOUR MESSAGE FROM GOD: BY RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE YOU HAVE NOW THE OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND TO GOD’S MESSAGE: YOU ARE A SINNER AND GOD SENT A MAN JESUS WHO WAS GOD IN A MAN TO DIE FOR ALL YOUR SINS. YOU CAN RESPOND TO THIS BY A PRAYER TO HIM FOR MERCY. NOW MY MESSAGE IS OVER, AND YOU HAVE SUFFICIENT MEANS. GOODBYE.” Then I walk immediately away and never talk to that person again. That kind of presentation of facts without a gracious spirit, might end up actually turning this perosn off, thinking “Wow, all religious people are nuts, I don’t even know what he was talking about.” Whereas say instead if I consistently showed love and grace to this person, always at any appropriate moment politely saying what a difference Christ made in my life, how we all feel a guilty conscience at times for things we’ve done, and how we all have a spiritual thirst for something more, a need for forgiveness, a desire for eternal meaning, and an intuitive knowledge that creation indicates a Creator, that’s called wisdom and wooing and softening of the heart.

    Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness And speak kindly to her. — Hos. 2:14

    I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him — Zech. 12:10

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    1. Good Morning David! I think the issue is the same one found in the Fundamentalism/NeoOrthodoxy controversy of the last century. Does the Scripture’s presentation of the gospel, even if presented in an unpalatable way still have an inherent power to cause some positive result in the unregenerate heart, or must it “become the Word of God” by some added personal activity of the Holy Spirit?

      I believe that Jesus and Paul confirm that the Scripture is The Word of God (John 10:35, 2Tim 3:16) and that it has an inherent ability without extra influence by the Holy Spirit. It divides the thoughts and intents of the heart each time it is heard physically, at least to the extent, in my view, that the hearer WILL recognize on some level its truth and their need to seek to understand it further.

      The Scriptures themselves enable to make one wise for salvation (2Tim 3:15, τα δυναμενα).

      Our illustrations are sometimes helpful, but often they become a diversion, in my view, from discussing or understanding related Scriptures. But let me say that even an obnoxious Christian shouting the Scripture “Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Scripture” is planting that powerful seed in the hearer’s heart. That seed will effect the recognition of its truth value and also a sense of need to respond positively to it, even if that effect is short lived because of other influences present.

      Spirit led testimony and prayer for personal influence by the Spirit will certainly help add/effect more recognition and sense of need in the hearer of the Word, but the Word/Scripture gets the ball rolling all by itself!

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      1. brianwagner writes, “[The word] divides the thoughts and intents of the heart each time it is heard physically, at least to the extent, in my view, that the hearer WILL recognize on some level its truth and their need to seek to understand it further.”

        Is this true? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1, “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This indicates that there is some discrimination in the work of the Scriptures on a person. When you say, “…on some level…,” I guess this can run from 0 – 100; 0 being the rocky path and 100 being the good soil with weeds and rocks in between.

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      2. Yes, Roger, it is true. Your one verse, taken out of context does not overthrow the biblical discussion of the number of verses I chose showing the innate power of the Word. And your verse does not say, “… the message of the cross is ONLY foolishness to those who are perishing.”

        I believe there is a period of mental conflict (double-mindedness if you will) when the preaching of the cross takes place. But this context, I believe, emphasizes those who choose to rely only on the wisdom of general revelation (the wisdom of men), for whom the special revelation about the meaning of the cross is foolishness. In other words, they already got over the doublemindedness/conviction caused by the Word when they first heard it (and quickly do so each time they hear it, though they do not have to).

        The phrase, “who are being saved”, is very interesting. Is it about those who already accepted the truth of that Word about the cross, or is it about those who are coming into salvation for the first time? I lean toward the former meaning, for in this context Paul is contrasting his apostolic preaching with those using the wisdom of men to divide the Corinthian congregation.

        True Christians, Paul is saying, recognize that the gospel is the power of God and the wisdom of God, not just for themselves, but for any who will put their trust in it. In this context, Paul is not teaching about how one gets saved, but how one recognizes God’s apostolic leadership by their gospel preaching.

        The power is in the message, Paul is saying, not in the erudition and scholarship of men. This actually infers support to my view that the Word has an innate power.

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      3. brianwagner writes, “Your one verse, taken out of context does not overthrow the biblical discussion of the number of verses I chose showing the innate power of the Word. And your verse does not say, ‘… the message of the cross is ONLY foolishness to those who are perishing.’”

        I am at a loss to understand your objection. I read your comment and found nothing with which to disagree.

        When I wrote, “Is it true?” I did not mean to say that it was not but to say, Yes, this is true, and this is why. You used the phrase, “…at least to the extent…” and I explained what “extent” was. We both agree that the word is powerful, so the issue becomes, “Why are not all saved when they hear the word?” That is the great conundrum. The language you use reflects this when you write, “…at least to the extent…” or “True Christians.” We both agree that the word has innate power. What confuses both of is is why that powerful word often seems to be without power. This is what Paul addresses when he says, “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That is an universal truth not bound by any context. Go anywhere in the world in any period of time and a group of people to whom the powerful word is preached can be divided into two groups – those perishing and those being saved. Some respond to the word and some don’t and are perishing. We draw Paul’s conclusion, “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

        So, my citation of 1 Corinthians 1 was not to dispel the idea that the preaching of the word is not powerful but to explain how some who hear that word are perishing while others are being saved (being saved as you explained it).

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      4. Well, Brian your posts are always intelligent, interesting and educated and I look forward to them. But in this case I could hardly disagree more. Not only do I think not reflecting the character of Christ while conveying factual information about him is a neutral thing that does nothing—I think it can be a highly negative influence that can obscure the message. Ever hear the saying “Actions speak louder in words”? Know why that saying came to be? Because… actions speak louder than words, lol. A broken, crushed, humble spirit can convey more of the real Spirit and Love and Life of Christ stumbling uneloquently over words, than a cold religious Pharisaical heart speaking condescendingly and unlovingly in exquisite detail the Gospel message, or some backslidden immoral person living just like the world but wearing a big “JESUS GYM” T-shirt and saying grace obnoxiously loud witnessing every chance he gets and showing a picture of a hypocritical, insensitive and lukewarm Christianity. That is like a black veil over the actual and real Christ and his message, because now whenever I talk to people about Bible truths all I bump into his these gross caracatures, and an immediate response “oh, I know that Bible stuff and what kind of peopel do that.” And they don’t rethink or deeply consider the actual truths and message. Why did Paul rebuke the demonized girl shouting “These men are servants of the most high God!” What she said was true and it was free advertising, but Paul was distressed in spirit. Christ was particular in how he revealed and expressed himself, tailorizing his message to his particular audience and speaking with wisdom and tact, as the Bible instructs are speech to be seasoned with salt. This “Just say the Bible words and that’s all there is to it” is a highly destructive belief in the spiritual kingdom of God and I won’t ever back it or get behind it at all. Actions speak louder than words, it takes a pure heart to convey a pure message, and many a devil-used person has shouted Bible verses to kingdom come—no pun intended. Plus we are taught prayer and fasting increases the spiritual harvest. regards

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      5. Hi David, Thank you for the compliment. I enjoy your heartfelt responses and so evident desire to glorify God and see souls saved! I think I was mainly defending the innate power of the Word. But I do not at all want to give the impression that the Holy Spirit does not want to use other influences to draw souls to salvation or that there are obvious negative influences that counter the innate influence of the Word.

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      6. Sometimes, I find myself arguing for two sides of an issue depending on which side is being presented. I don’t know if that makes me double-minded or just constantly seeking a middle. You’re quite right about the inherent power of the Word, despite it’s contravening influences. I’d probably die on that hill of the inherent power of the Word, and I’ve been called “overly mystical” for doing so. I suppose the power is offered to the heart, sometimes not as we’d prefer, but still needing the “ground” of the heart to decide what kind of ground it wants to be.

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    2. I’m a little hurt that you haven’t listened to my sermon at Southwestern, Dizerner. 😉

      I say that because I spend quite some time drawing a distinction between the Calvinistic T of inability and the biblical doctrine of human depravity.

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      1. No, I was certain you didn’t mean depravity in general I just freaked out a bit. 😦 Sorry for that. I’d say it’s a distinction with a difference. 🙂

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    3. Dizerner wrote: ///The matter being debated is not the external truth that all men can respond to Gospel truth—both sides fully accept that. The matter under dispute is the internal, invisible necessary means by which that Gospel is elucidated and the gracious appeal of the wooing and drawing of the Spirit is applied. Can I go, say, to my sinner friend who is drinking and smoking and standing still with no emotions, yell out at the top of my voice “DEAR SINNER HERE IS YOUR MESSAGE FROM GOD///

      I may be misunderstanding you but you seem to be equivocating between the manner in which we proclaim truth and the sufficiency of that truth to enable a willing response.

      Secondly, your analogy makes an error similar to what we see Calvinists often make, which is to presume the condition of man’s heart is born in a hardened (addicted) condition. Teaching a drug addict about the dangers of drugs is different from teaching a teenager who has never tried drugs. Approaching everyone as if they were born drug addicts would be a mistake (similar to that made by Calvinists when they approach people as if they are all born already hardened, given over, defiled in their thinking, calloused, unable to see, hear, turn and be forgiven).

      Of course, persuading calloused self-righteous sinners to repent is more difficult than persuading children or those in desperate need of help (see Acts 28:23-28). But, the condition of their heart is largely due to their own decisions, not an inborn nature decreed to be how it is by God.

      Yes, we are all sinners, but no, we are not all born hardened or calloused in the manner most of Israel had BECOME in Paul’s day.

      Arguing in favor of moral ability to respond in faith to God’s appeals (responsibility) is not equal to arguing in favor of being born perfect or without the curse/influence of sin.

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      1. Pastor Flowers writs, “Secondly, your analogy makes an error similar to what we see Calvinists often make, which is to presume the condition of man’s heart is born in a hardened (addicted) condition. ”

        It is a “presumptio” with solid Scriptural support, i.e., it is supported by evidence (meaning that it is not a presumption in the normal sense of that word).

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      2. Ok…. I can produce several text which speak of people BECOMING or GROWING hardened, calloused, given over, defiled etc… Can you produced any that specifically say they are born as such?

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      3. Pastor Flowers writes, “I can produce several text which speak of people BECOMING or GROWING hardened, calloused, given over, defiled etc… Can you produced any that specifically say they are born as such?”

        Sorry for the confusion, but when you work with strawmen, things get messy, requiring that we tidy up. We both agree that people are born depraved (I think). It is because of that depravity that people become or grow hardened, calloused, etc. Calvinists do not argue that people are necessarily born hardened (so I do not think I need to provide verses to show that), but that people are born depraved (and since I think you agree with this, I also do not need to proved the Scriptural evidence). The Calvinist will bottom line things and describe people as being depraved, hardened, calloused, etc. and if you deal with the bottom line and ignore how that conclusion is reached (e.g., that depravity naturally leads to hardening which is the inevitable result), confusion can occur.

        The real argument is the extent of the depravity with which people are born and the ability of the person who is depraved to respond to the gospel. Can a depraved person do other than become hardened, calloused, etc to the gospel such that their depravity is Total and they are completely unable to respond to the gospel other than to reject it? Or, as the Pelagian would argue, is that depravity such that the person can still respond positively to the gospel without becoming hardened to the gospel? Are there more than these two sides to the issue?

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      4. Arguing in favor of moral ability to respond in faith to God’s appeals (responsibility) is not equal to arguing in favor of being born perfect or without the curse/influence of sin.

        I understand. But it seems dangerously close to saying we are born neutral or good. Scripture does say we need more than our sins forgiven—we need our entire old self to die, to be eliminated somehow. He’s sold to sin. Many deny original sin in this sense, that we are born constituted sinners by the one, that we are born with a heart desperately wicked and who can know it, that we are born falling short of the glory of God, that we are born worthy before God of death, not fulfilling the Law in positive righteousness, nor being able to do it, because those who are in the flesh cannot please God and in my flesh dwells no good thing! This is nature, constitution, substance, attitude, disposition, the root, the seed, the fountain, the foundation. Some will say we sin because we are born into a bad world and there’s just so many juicy temptations, not even good people can resist! I don’t think that is picture the Bible presents us, I don’t think that explains a sin principle living within us such that Paul said “it’s not even me that sins but sin living within!”, I don’t think that explains why God had to crucify our literal selves, our old man, so that we die in some mystical way in Christ, and rise again with him, I don’t think that explains why all people everywhere also follow the lusts and flesh and mind and are by nature children of wrath, I don’t think that explains why a veil of unbelief covers the world and Satan is called the Prince of the power of the air and the ruler of this fallen world system, I don’t think so!

        A little tiny acorn, or a huge fully grown 100 foot tall Oak, are both the same genetics, they are both the same substance, only to different degrees of maturation, just as the sin of the Amorites had not yet reached full growth. Little maggots and full grown wasps are all the same species and all the same DNA, but they are not at the same levels of display or “waspness” or outworking of their fundamental principles that drive them. Humans aren’t born neutral and one day slip up and sin after the likeness of Adam, humans are born sinful and sinners, and that is why they all inevitably, without the grace of God, take the path of destruction, turn aside and together become unprofitable. I do think sinners can become more sinful, I do think sinners can become harder, more resistant, more wicked, more stubborn, more unwilling, more deaf, more blind, more evil, but that doesn’t make them any more or less what they are in substance, it only manifests the potential of what they fundamentally were to begin with. Children do accept God easier and they do resist grace less and they do have a more tender heart in general, although I’ve seen young children be very perverse, wicked and cruel, even more so than adults, at times, as they do channel better. But this doesn’t change the fact they don’t grow up into needing a Savior, they are born needing a Savior, they don’t come into this world pure and undefiled and holy, they come into this world only deserving of being crucified with Christ in Adam, just like every person ever born.

        As in Adam all unbelieving die, so in Christ all believing will live.

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  7. My Traditionalist friends, take one more step and knock off the “Calvinism is just another biblical interpretation of the gospel” and realize it’s ANOTHER gospel entirely.

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    1. Jeff D. writes, “…it’s ANOTHER gospel entirely.”

      The question now is, Who has the right gospel? Looks like Galatians territory.

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  8. Yes. TULIP hinges on total depravity – the assertion that people inherently are unable to believe in and receive Jesus.

    The Calvinist assertion on the nature of election and predestination hinges on this.

    Rather than engage in quasi-philosophical debate regarding God, election and predestination and usually leading nowhere, we ought to focus on whether people can believe without God overriding their will.

    If people have agency in accepting/rejecting salvation, even if it is a passive acceptance defined as lack of rejection, there is no way we can read verses on election as a lottery draw for heaven.

    It’s quite simple, but takes some time to think through Scripture to arrive at this conclusion.

    Arminianism is set up to fail by acknowledging T.

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    1. Hi Roland! I used to think T was crucial… but now I think the U is the key. For if God promises to overcome sufficiently for everyone any inability caused by being Adam’s kid, then the T is no longer the problem. But if God predetermined before creation exactly who was to have that total depravity overcome effectively, and to leave everyone else wallowing in their inability, then it does not matter how much gracious/merciful interaction He has with the others, He has made certain that it will never be enough.

      But the Book of Life was blank at creation. And God’s plan/purpose at that point was to enable everyone who could be born in the future with various opportunities to seek Him for salvation. His foreknowledge of how that plan/purpose would work out contains perfect understanding of some determined ends and boundaries that He has made, and a lot of still undetermined possibilities that He has permitted to exist. His foreknowledge is not of a completely settled future for that is not what He has ordained to exist according to Scripture.

      Names of those who become born again through faith are added to the Book of Life and they become chosen as an individual at that moment of regeneration. They become one of the elect of which Christ was the only member before creation.

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    2. Roland Peer writes, “Arminianism is set up to fail by acknowledging T.”

      Recognizing this, the Arminian proposes “prevenient grace” to provide all people with the ability to accept/reject salvation thereby reducing Arminianism to Pelagianism.

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  9. I think Roger we may be speaking past each other! Go figure, since we understand each other so well! 🙂 The inherent ability of the Word is what is at issue. And when the Word comes in contact with the heart, as it does in the parable of the sower, the position I am taking (and I think Simple might agree) is that some inability in the heart is overcome by causative ability in the Word, causing every heart to sense the truthfulness of the Word and the need to investigate further. Perhaps you would call my view that there a slight change from what you see as the total moral inability to what I see as a partial moral ability that can be pursued.

    Also, I think we should be able to find out what Pelagius believed from his own words. And his commentary on Romans has pretty sufficient provenance that it is his book. From what I gather from looking through it, Pelagius believed that grace is necessary for salvation, and God must take the initiative to provide it. So I am guessing you might see that as agreeing with your view that man might have a natural ability to believe in something, but no moral ability to trust in God’s grace until it is offered to him.

    I think where people might get messed up with Pelagius is his view of man’s natural ability to respond in a positive, non-salvific way to natural grace, that is God’s benevolences, and they think that he is identifying those positive responses as meritorious for salvation.

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    1. brianwagner writes, “…when the Word comes in contact with the heart, as it does in the parable of the sower, the position I am taking (and I think Simple might agree) is that some inability in the heart is overcome by causative ability in the Word, causing every heart to sense the truthfulness of the Word and the need to investigate further. Perhaps you would call my view that there a slight change from what you see as the total moral inability to what I see as a partial moral ability that can be pursued.”

      This sounds like Arminian prevenient grace, and you identify the Word is the means of grace that negates any moral inability that might reside in the lost – thus, all are able to accept the gospel. Of course, Jesus explains the parable first, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it,…” Thus, there is some number of people where the “causative ability in the word” has no effect. Then Jesus explains, “…the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time,” and then, “…the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” The “causative ability of the word” again appears compromised. Whatever further investigation is forthcoming seems to no avail – not because of the word but because of other factors in the person’s life that override the word. I think you are attributing a “causative ability” to the word that is not supported by the parable. Have you done a more exhaustive analysis that is available easily?

      Then, “Also, I think we should be able to find out what Pelagius believed from his own words. And his commentary on Romans has pretty sufficient provenance that it is his book. From what I gather from looking through it, Pelagius believed that grace is necessary for salvation, and God must take the initiative to provide it. So I am guessing you might see that as agreeing with your view that man might have a natural ability to believe in something, but no moral ability to trust in God’s grace until it is offered to him.”

      I don’t know. I’ll guess and say that the grace of God to which Pelagius refers, is Christ’s death on the cross. That would address the problem of the natural inability of a person to save himself – to atone for his sin. Whether Pelagius speaks of God’s grace to negate a moral inability to respond to the gospel is something you will have to sort out – it’s on Google Docs, so maybe I can read a little, but if you can suggest those parts to focus on, that would be pretty neat.

      Finally, “I think where people might get messed up with Pelagius is his view of man’s natural ability to respond in a positive, non-salvific way to natural grace, that is God’s benevolences, and they think that he is identifying those positive responses as meritorious for salvation.”

      So, where did Augustine get messed up? I think Augustine was under the impression that Pelagious believed that people did not need the grace of God to do good – to accept salvation. Now, I just have to find the document where I read this.

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      1. Again Roger, I think we are speaking past each other. You have agreed that the word had some positive effect on the 2nd and 3rd soils. I just believe that it had the same also on the first, that is, providing a sense of its truthfulness and need for further investigation. But the first soil did not come to understand the implications of the Word’s truthfulness and need further. Where we clearly disagree is that God would have continued in every heart to provide more enlightenment if it continues to respond positively/humbly towards the Word’s effects in it?

        I am not home right now, but I will send you some quotes from Pelagius that led me to the conclusions I gave. Why Augustine stood so strongly against him was more ecclesiastically/politically motivated in my view than doctrinally.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “You have agreed that the word had some positive effect on the 2nd and 3rd soils.”

        Let’s take this a step further. Unsaved people have no desire to do good where we define “good” as giving glory to God. Their desire is to glorify themselves. the 2nd and 3rd soils tell us that the gospel can be attractive to people seeking to glorify themselves. The word has no further attraction to such people as evidenced by the rejection of the gospel because of worldly concerns. I see an effect of the word in the 2nd and 3rd soils, but I would not call this a positive effect. A person can sit in the pew all their life and still be unsaved as they are planted in the 2nd or 3rd soils and even the 1st.

        The, “I just believe that it had the same also on the first, that is, providing a sense of its truthfulness and need for further investigation. But the first soil did not come to understand the implications of the Word’s truthfulness and need further. Where we clearly disagree is that God would have continued in every heart to provide more enlightenment if it continues to respond positively/humbly towards the Word’s effects in it?”

        We agree the God would then need to provide further enlightenment either to an Universalist or Calvinist outcome.

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      3. How did I know Roger you would end up with a statement concerning your loyalty to the only two options (a false dichotomy) that your system allows? :0)

        And you have no Scriptural proof that unsaved people have no desire for giving God glory! The effects of the Word even causes those desires, as I have been discussing.

        Jesus said the unsaved were able to see the good works of the saved and to glorify God, who is in heaven, because of it. Lydia was praying before God opened her heart at Paul’s message. It appears she was glorifying God before being saved. And Cornelius also was fearing God and working righteousness before being saved, which Peter defined as being accepted by God.

        I think you have twisted these clear examples before in our discussions to maintain your view. So we do not need to go over this ground again… but just agree to disagree.

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      4. brianwagner writes, “And you have no Scriptural proof that unsaved people have no desire for giving God glory!”

        We do have Scriptures that suggest such to be the case.

        “The mind of sinful man is death,…the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Romans 8

        “when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” Romans 7

        “…the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other,…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5

        “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” Ephesians 2

        “For 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. For 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.” Romans 1

        But, you already know these verses and still think that the unsaved have a desire to glorify God. So, we disagree.

        Then, “The effects of the Word even causes those desires, as I have been discussing.”

        Don’t you mean that the word strengthens those desires. If you mean that the word “causes” those desires, then that would mean that those desires did not previously exist, but how could you know that except by reference to the word – that which you seem to deny above.

        Then, “Jesus said the unsaved were able to see the good works of the saved and to glorify God, who is in heaven, because of it. Lydia was praying before God opened her heart at Paul’s message. It appears she was glorifying God before being saved. And Cornelius also was fearing God and working righteousness before being saved, which Peter defined as being accepted by God.”

        Interesting examples. I see the touch of universalist thinking in you.

        Finally, “I think you have twisted these clear examples before in our discussions to maintain your view. So we do not need to go over this ground again… but just agree to disagree.”

        Don’t you find it challenging that at least one of us is wrong and has possibly been deceived and is serving Satan?

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      5. Good morning Roger! Here we are again at the impasse caused by you not being able to look past what you think are only two alternatives and me not being able to see that Scripture could be teaching just these two…1. No ability in the unregenerate to please God (or even the possibility for God to be able to enable them to do so) – 2. and that the ability to please God in non-salvific ways only comes after regeneration.

        Your verses do not reject a third alternative to your false dichotomy between the pre-chosen and universalism.

        We do both agree, Roger, that at least one of us is wrong on this issue! Holding to error concerning any Scripture’s teaching is certainly encouraged by Satan and serves his plans. But my view is that much of what we are discussing is in the category of “doubtful things”, Rom 14:1, so in those areas, I receive you as my brother, and you stand or fall before our Master, who is able to make both of us stand!

        I do admit that some of the things in Calvinism force a rejection of the clear meaning of certain Scripture texts. Those cause a disqualification in the area of sound doctrine that qualifies one to be a pastor (Titus 1:9). Those are more serious issues.

        Concerning the first two verses you listed, you and I both agree that nothing from the flesh can bring about salvation. And I think we both agree that God’s gracious influence for salvation does not start in the flesh, but in the human spirit. Where we disagree is whether the human spirit retains from Adam any ability to respond, or can be enabled to respond, to God’s gracious influences before forgiveness and everlasting life are given to that spirit.

        Of course, underneath, coloring your thinking and mine in these matters is whether God limited His free will to interact with man by predetermining all His and man’s choices before even starting creation, leaving no possibilities undetermined for man to be synergistically involved in any non-meritorious way (humility and repentance) in his salvation.

        That issue of pre-determination of all things or only of some things is also a matter of sound doctrine since it determines whether one holds to the perspicuity of Scripture and divine self-revelation or chooses to believe most, if not all, divine self-revelation is anthropomorphic and analogical.

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      6. brianwagner writes, “you and I both agree that nothing from the flesh can bring about salvation. And I think we both agree that God’s gracious influence for salvation does not start in the flesh, but in the human spirit.”

        Well, maybe not. If we can use the distinction between natural inability (e.g., a person’s inability to atone for his sin) and moral inability (e.g., a person’s inability to resist sin and please God through his lack of faith), then then, I think we must account that God began His gracious influence for salvation by addressing man’s natural inability and thereby sent Christ to the cross. Then, it is necessary that God deal with a person’s moral deficiency. We both agree that God must address a person’s moral deficiency if a person is to be saved.

        Then, “Where we disagree is whether the human spirit retains from Adam any ability to respond, or can be enabled to respond, to God’s gracious influences before forgiveness and everlasting life are given to that spirit.”

        Here, you confuse me. If people have any ability to respond to whatever influences God may chose to use, then certainly, God (who is omnipotent) can use such influence as He deems necessary to bring a person to salvation. The Universalist says that God does use whatever influence it takes and thereby will save all. The Calvinist says that God chooses not to save all and only extends such gracious influences as is necessary to bring certain people, but not all, to salvation. I think you are on the Calvinist side – in saying that God will not save all – so the issue concerns those means God will use to bring some to salvation.

        Of course, if man can be enabled to respond, then we still have the Universalist/Calvinist split. The Universalist says that God enables all to be saved to the degree that all are saved while the Calvinist says that God only enables some portion of people to be saved and enables then sufficient to bring them to salvation. If you or anyone agree that God must enable the person, then the issue concerns the degree to which God enables some and not others.

        Then, “…whether God limited His free will to interact with man by predetermining all His and man’s choices before even starting creation, leaving no possibilities undetermined for man to be synergistically involved in any non-meritorious way (humility and repentance) in his salvation.”

        By “limited His free will,” are we to understand that God is (or would be) omniscient with regard to all future events had He not limited His will? I had thought that your position was that God was naturally limited in His knowledge of future events and did not create that situation by an act of His will.

        Finally, “That issue of pre-determination of all things…”

        Of course, you figured out that pre-determination occurs only if God is omniscient with regard to future events, so to gain the outcome you desire, you have denied God omniscience regarding the future. The issue is not pre-determination; it is omniscience. Here, the main issue is how God chooses to communicate with His creation given their inferiority to Him (such inferiority not even comprehensible to His creation which inferiority then colors how God’s creation views Him).

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      7. Once again, Roger, I find myself back in my corner, 🙂 feeling that God will have to use other things than my influence, for the time being, to help you see the fallacy of believing that God has predetermined everything. That includes the fallacy that He decided to withhold that fact in His revelation, and to even present His revelation in a way that leads us better to the reasonable conclusion that the future is only partially determined, and that much is left undetermined for God and man’s free interaction. Only after that free will interaction is the future brought into the determined state which is only the past, and which cannot change.

        I do want to clarify one thing you said – You said – “Of course, you figured out that pre-determination occurs only if God is omniscient with regard to future events.so to gain the outcome you desire, you have denied God omniscience regarding the future.” I wouldn’t want our newer readers to not recognize that we both claim omniscience for God, we just define it differently. We both agree that God’s understanding is infinite. We disagree what “pre-determination” means. Your view of omniscience is that it is immutable, therefore there are no actual determinations in His mind, no, not ever.

        Nothing, in your view, goes from being undetermined in God’s infinite understanding to then being determined. I, however, believe the Scripture speaks truly about God’s everlasting sequential reality that includes His sequential thinking, causing changes within His infinite understanding without causing any imperfection.

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      8. brianwagner writes, “…to help you see the fallacy of believing that God has predetermined everything. That includes the fallacy that He decided to withhold that fact in His revelation, and to even present His revelation in a way that leads us better to the reasonable conclusion that the future is only partially determined, and that much is left undetermined for God and man’s free interaction. Only after that free will interaction is the future brought into the determined state which is only the past, and which cannot change.”

        While we disagree that God has pre-determined the future, we should be able to agree that God determines, or can determine, all things. For example, it is God who determines that a person is born for a woman does not get pregnant through biological means except by God’s decree. Then, it is God who determines the day a person will die. In between, it is God who sustains the lives of each person that lives, so that we wake in the morning knowing that God has sustained our life through the night. It is God who restrains the sin that people do with their lives so that Satan cannot enter the garden to tempt Adam/Eve or interfere in Job’s life or touch God’s elect except God remove His restraint on him. The Assyrians desire to conquer but are restrained by God from invading Israel until God removes His restraint. Then, God is active in pursuing His will as He destroys the world in a flood or the cities including Sodom on the plain, calling Abraham to serve Him, giving Abraham a son, using Joseph to preserve Jacob and his family, appointing first Saul and then David as king, sending His prophets to Israel, to Ninevah, and now to the whole world, impregnating Mary, sending Christ to the cross, and on we could go. Through direct involvement in the affairs of the world by causing this or restraining that, we see God determining, or being able to determine, all things that happen.

        In all this, man’s free will is subordinate to God’s will. Man is free to choose what he will do with the life God has given him, but cannot sin beyond the restraint of God and cannot do good except given to him by God. A man lives at the pleasure of God and God may call him to judgment (or to glory) at any time by many means as God does not restrain evil men from stoning Stephan while not allowing Peter to be killed, all the time using people making free will decisions to accomplish His purposes.

        The extent to which God knows the future – i.e., knows how He will restrain evil or bring about good – is the subject of debate. Through the prophecies God reveals much certainty of the future and with great precision in many cases. Is there really interaction between God and men? Of course. God makes many promises – ask for wisdom and God will give it – and declares consequences of sin. A person freely asks God for wisdom and freely sins (within restraint) and suffers consequences. No person can overcome the consequences of his sin without God’s help no matter how much free will he has. But does a person ask for wisdom except when prompted by God or does a person sin other than at the prompting of a sinful nature? So, how free are people? That is debated.

        Then, “I do want to clarify one thing you said – You said – “Of course, you figured out that pre-determination occurs only if God is omniscient with regard to future events.so to gain the outcome you desire, you have denied God omniscience regarding the future.” I wouldn’t want our newer readers to not recognize that we both claim omniscience for God, we just define it differently. We both agree that God’s understanding is infinite. We disagree what “pre-determination” means. Your view of omniscience is that it is immutable, therefore there are no actual determinations in His mind, no, not ever.”

        For a teacher, you have a nifty way of writing much that says little. You say, “We define it differently,” when you could have just given our different definitions. You could have said that I believe God knows all that is to happen in the future while you say that the future is yet to be fixed. I claim God is omniscient and you use the same term with an “*.” Of course, maybe, you don’t really know the difference – but I doubt it.

        Finally, “Nothing, in your view, goes from being undetermined in God’s infinite understanding to then being determined. I, however, believe the Scripture speaks truly about God’s everlasting sequential reality that includes His sequential thinking, causing changes within His infinite understanding without causing any imperfection.”

        Men think sequentially, by limitation when God made them, but also to allow for logical reasoning. To say that God must also, and only, think sequentially – thereby to make God a man in this respect – denies the Scripture where God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” We should admit that God is incomprehensible to us and what limited understanding we have of God – as little as it is – is that which God has chosen to reveal to us. The Scriptures may speak of “God’s everlasting sequential reality” but that does not limit God’s reality to the sequential.

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