Biblical Persuasion: The Heart of Evangelistic Apologetics

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As I have studied apologetics over the years I have noticed that the word “persuasion” comes up much more regularly than what I have been use to throughout my church and educational experience. I have been to countless evangelism events, conferences and training sessions over the years, but I cannot recall a single sermon, lesson or resource on the biblical concept of persuasion.

The English word “persuasion” (in all its various forms) is used twice as many times as the word “predestination,” yet it seems the latter receives a thousand times more attention. Persuasion is at the very heart of apologetics, and I dare say, it is at the heart of evangelism itself. I have to wonder if the lack of emphasis on this biblical doctrine has lead to the decline in baptisms and evangelistic efforts among evangelicals over the last few decades? <link>

What does the Bible say about persuasion?

Let’s take a look at some of it’s most relevant uses:

“The chief priests and the scribes persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.” (Matthew 27:20)

“(the people) were persuaded that John (the Baptist) was a prophet.” (Luke 20:6)

“Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas.” (Acts 17:4)

“Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)

“This man is persuading the people to worship God.” (Acts 18:13)

“(Paul was) arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)

“Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)

“Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Too often we speak only of the need to proclaim and explain the good news to the lost, but clearly the Bible teaches us that we should be trying to persuade people of its truthfulness. Is that not what Christian apologetics is all about?

Notice in Acts 17, when Paul “dialogued” (Greek: dialegomai, meaning ‘reasoned’) in the synagogue that it resulted in people being “persuaded” (Greek: peitho). Paul explained the Old Testament scriptures and answered their questions so as to convince them of the truth. This was typical in his approach with his fellow Jews (“his custom” v. 2) , because he knew the Jews considered their scriptures to be authoritative. However, Paul’s approach with the Gentiles shifted to speaking about their culture first rather than the Scriptures (see vs. 22-31). Paul is using his God given gift of persuasion by connecting with his audience on their level.  He has “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [he] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).

What does it mean to persuade?

Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words describes the word “persuade” as follows:

To prevail upon or win over, to bring about a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations.

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary states:

Successfully urge to do; talk into or out of an action; attract in a particular direction; cause to believe a statement or truth; to urge strongly; try to convince; lead a person to believe by argument; to talk earnestly with a person in order to secure agreement; to carry conviction; be convincing.

Notice that the Vine’s Dictionary draws attention to both reason and morality. In other words, appealing to one’s conscience in an effort to get them to do what is right morally may be one effective approach to persuasion, but it’s not the only tool. Appealing to sound reason (by means of dialogue) is an equally important biblical tool in the persuasion process.

To be honest, I cannot stand listening to screaming preachers telling their audiences how sinful they are and how ashamed of themselves they should be. Maybe this approach works to persuade some, but frankly it turns me off and I suspect it turns off many others outside the church. Stirring up emotions and playing on people’s shame instead of speaking with respect, gentleness, love and reason does not seem to be the most persuasive approach.

Persuasion is not about emotionally abusing people into submission. It is about speaking truth in love (Eph. 4:15). It is about being a person of character who earns the respect of the audience by showing them respect. It is about making sound, logical, well reasoned arguments that connect with the listener on a personal level. As Paul said:

“We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Paul, while he was in Ephesus, was “arguing persuasively” (Acts 19:8). Doesn’t that strongly imply that it is possible to “argue unpersuasively?” Why would anyone want to risk being “unpersuasive” when it comes to proclaiming the most important news of all?

Why don’t we speak more of persuasion?

If our evangelism is not persuasive the only thing left is unpersuasive evangelism, and what would be the point in that?

Maybe it does not sound as “spiritual” to speak of persuasion when it comes to evangelism, as if we are not relying on the Holy Spirit like we should? Some might argue that we have to rely on the supernatural work of God to persuade the listener. But, what does that even mean? Has God not given the preacher of the gospel the gift of persuasion?  If so, why wouldn’t God still get the credit when His own people successfully use their God given gifts to accomplish those God given purposes?

It has been the influence of our post-modern culture that has lead the church to value experience over intellect, as if it is more spiritual to feel than to think. Christian apologist, Peter May, explained:

Some thirty years ago, I heard a famous and influential English evangelist put it like this: “A man won by an argument is at the mercy of a better argument. Instead, we must bring people into an experience of Christ.” I wasn’t quick witted enough to point out that a person won by an experience is at the mercy of a better experience! However, his viewpoint was widely shared and highlighted a subjective and relative approach to truth. It was very post-modern. Interestingly, this popular preacher often used cultural references and quotations from famous people in his sermons. His talks had a veneer of intellectualism about them but he never presented sustained intellectual arguments. A quote from Nietzsche may decorate a talk, but an exploration of Nietzsche’s meaning did not follow.

Evangelism was about the heart not the head. In particular, there was no vision for “pulling down strongholds, demolishing arguments and every lofty idea raised up against the knowledge of God and taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ” as Paul put it (1 Corinthians 10:4,5). <link>

This approach to evangelism assumed God’s existence and the authority of the Bible while discouraging skeptics from asking questions. Therefore, the deeper thinking skeptics either buried their doubts or simply left the church. I am convinced that people don’t leave our churches because of their doubts, they leave our churches because they don’t feel like they can openly express their doubts. And so it is, we have raised a generation of people who are mostly unpersuaded intellectually about the claims of the scripture, while those who remain committed continue to wait on God to do what He has created and gifted people to do — PERSUADE!

Why does our theology matter when it come to persuasion?

Some people object to the use of persuasion by quoting from Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:4:

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Case closed! Persuasion is wrong. Persuasion is evil. Persuasion is resting on human wisdom, rather than God’s power, therefore this whole article has just been blown out of the water, right?!  WRONG.

Only if you believe that Paul regretted his persuasive approach to the Athenians so as to adopt an “unpersuasive” approach from this point forward could the point of this article be deemed erroneous. Allow me to make a sound, logical and well reasoned argument to show you why Paul has not switched approaches or contradicted himself.

Hermeneutics requires us to look closely at the context of every passage. Corinth was a bastion of Greek culture and practice. Because there were no iPhones or TVs in the first century, the choice of daily entertainment often centered around Greek oratory. Imagine a young, handsome athletic man with muscles almost as large as his ego gathering a crowd around him by telling grand stories filled with flaunting words of empty rhetoric. Oratory was an art form in this city and the human wisdom of the Greek culture rested on the persuasiveness of this attractive medium.

The Roman General, Mark Anthony (of Cleopatra fame), trained as a public orator. Plutarch records that his style of oratory “had much in common with Anthony’s own mode of life. It was boastful, insolent, and full of empty bravado and misguided aspirations!”[1]

Now, imagine being an weak, older, unattractive communicator with eye problems trying to live up to that standard. This is the context of Paul’s statement. He could not compete with the athleticism, prowess and speaking skills that the Corinthian people had come to expect from their orators of “wisdom.” He did not have a long list of exciting stories in his repertoire. He had the story of Christ and Him crucified. He only had what the Spirit told him to say (Eph. 3:1-11). Those Holy Spirit inspired words are the “power” to which the apostle refers in this context.

Is persuasion enough? What is the role of the Holy Spirit?

When Paul references “God’s power” in verse 4 he IS NOT referring to some supernatural additional working which is above and beyond the proclamation of His inspired word. He is referring to the inspired word itself. As Paul taught in Ephesians 3:1-5:

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christwhich was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” 

How has God chosen to reveal the mystery of Christ according to this text? Paul says “by the Spirit.” But to whom? To every individual through some supernatural work of regeneration making them effectually see and understand the mysteries?  No.

Paul clearly says, “by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” God reveals mysteries (that have been hidden in the mind of God for generations) by inspiring men like Paul to proclaim them clearly. This is called the “gospel” which is said to be “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).

This brings up another important point about the words we use when attempting to persuade others. Does the content of our persuasive presentations matter?  Of course it matters.  We must persuade using the inspired scriptures if we have any hope of leading someone to Christ. Both the content and the means by which that content is delivered serves to persuade.

In Corinth, Paul’s delivery may have paled in comparison to the orators of that day, nevertheless the source of God’s power was found in the content of his message, the inspired words of God Himself. That does not mean we should check our minds in at the door or become dry and monotonous so as to prove we are depending on some kind of supernatural work of God to convince people to listen to our lazy, ill-prepared, boring speeches. Paul never intended such non-sense.  He was simply declaring that even when his best effort falls short, the power of the Holy Spirit’s inspired word is sufficient to accomplish its given purpose (John 20:31).


References

[1] Plutarch, Life of Mark Anthony, section 2.

[2] Peter May, Newsletter of the European Leadership Forum.

 

 

46 thoughts on “Biblical Persuasion: The Heart of Evangelistic Apologetics

  1. I do not understand the Calvinist argument that states preaching or teaching the gospel to the unregenerate is like going to grave yard and preaching to people who are buried in their graves or as preaching to a dead man on his funeral day while he lays in his coffin who has no ability to respond to the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation.If Total inability is true then why did Paul devote his life to persuade others to believe the Gospel.The T in the TULIP cannot be biblical.Certainly Paul did not believe so

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    1. Well, Bud, that’s the Calvinist version. The Arminian version understands people would be incapable without God making the first move, because they are spiritually dead. That’s why Arminians believe “the dead will hear his voice,” but the Calvinist says the dead cannot hear his voice. Because the Calvinist deny prevenient grace working upon the heart, but we see that all throughout the Bible—God first working in “his vineyard.” If God left humanity in their spiritually dead state, we would have something like the kingdom of the Antichrist. Paul says pretty clearly that the Law shows “how exceedingly wicked sin really is” and that it always shows people as spiritually dead—but he says the “grace of God has appeared,” and sure you can say it’s just words on a page, but the Bible certainly says it’s more than that, it’s able to raise the dead and a power that work in them that believe.

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    2. Hi Bud,
      I agree with dizerner’s response to your post.

      However I would also add that much of what people find confusing or contradictory in Calvinist proclamations is actually due to the fact that their language is 99% duplicitous. Christians in dialogue with other Christians are not anticipating that…their not looking for it…and they often just don’t see it, and hence don’t understand how the Calvinist can’t see his own contradictions. But the contradictions are actually something they learn to live with and accept.

      The Calvinist is caught between two apposing urgencies. Firstly, he has an urgency to be true to its doctrinal dictates. However, the difficulty lies in the fact that its doctrinal dictates emphasize two things. 1) God taking pleasure in the salvation and eternal blessing of “the few”. And 2) God taking pleasure in the eternal damnation, reprobation, and eternal torture of “the many”. Calvin himself doesn’t hesitate to unabashedly proclaim both divine acts as that which God does “for his good pleasure”. But Calvinists today don’t have the luxury of being that honest. They readily emphasis the “doctrines of grace” and are careful to obfuscate the “doctrines of evil”.

      Today’s Calvinist knows that in his public facing declarations, if he is true to the eternal damnation, reprobation, and eternal torments of “the many”, and he emphasizes that aspect of the doctrine with the emphasis it is due, the inevitable result will be a form of negative marketing, which will result in the eventual demise of Calvinist demographics, and Calvinism will go the way of the dinosaurs. So his “recruitment” urgency is in conflict with his urgency to be true to the doctrine. He is a true pragmatist. There is very little value in being true to the doctrine if doing so makes him the last faithful member of a dying bread.

      Once one realizes that in order for Calvinism to retain marketing viability, it must utilize highly sophisticated forms of biblical sounding duplicitous language, one can then understand why the contradictions and idiosyncrasies exist within its language. Once one sees how prevalent that aspect of Calvinist language is, the reasons for all of the contradictions become understandable.

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      1. What you’re saying is true, but a Calvinist would never be able to see it. It’s important we never argue against their motivations—they will take it as a personal insult and close off their mind to considering anything said. Strongholds are not built overnight, but one brick at a time.

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      2. I agree BR.D.That Calvinists live and accept their views that contradict Bible.In that way when they present their view to the non Calvinist world.They try to soften it to make it seem like God really loves everyone.But the Calvinist view clearly states through the T.U.L.I.P. that God does not love everyone and Christ did not die for everyone and that God does not desire everyone to to be saved.The Bible shows us that God is love but God is not love according to Calvinism because He did not provide the atonement to almost all his creation so that He could save them by his love

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  2. I’d just be careful not to put too much trust in the arm of the flesh, and emphasize supporting prayer and personal holiness. What people thirst for is the water of life, and some come close enough through these intellectual disciplines, just to know they are allowed to think about things, so they can find their heart.

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    1. There is a third version that I believe is better supported by the Bible. Total depravity is false. God’s word is understandable by all men. God created men with this ability and takes the initiative to reveal Himself to all men. Men are able to respond to God’s revelation and God holds men responsible for their response.

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      1. You simply create a false dichotomy for me, ernest, so it’s not very persuasive. Remember this—Satan loves to tout the goodness of Man. He will tell you man is good, good, good, all the way to hell. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to finally convince a man he is evil, and not good. And that’s why Christ had to die. Christ is not “insurance” for good people in case they “happen” to sin, lol. Christ is the WAY, the only way anywhere, and we all have to die in him. It’s a NEW birth for a reason, because… wait for it… .we actually need a NEW birth. But the devil will make us happy thinking God’s justice means all men are good. Don’t buy it, the Bible is clear. Just don’t buy his sale of goods.

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      2. Ernest has slipped up. He states: “God created men with this ability and takes the initiative to reveal Himself to all men.”

        Well let’s break this down. Ernest says about God that He “takes the initiative to reveal Himself to all men”.

        This “taking the initiative” by God to reveal Himself to all men, do men DESERVE THIS? Do men earn this action by God?

        The answer to both questions is No.

        The Bible presents grace as actions that God does for us that we do not deserve or cannot earn (e.g. salvation is through the grace of God). So this initiative taking that Ernest refers to is a form of grace from God, correct? Yes, unless you argue that we deserve or earned this initiative taking by God.

        OK, so it clearly is grace.

        And WHEN does this initiative taking by God take place, before we are believers or after we become believers? again the answer seems clear, it occurs before we become believers.

        Arminians and others have called this grace that occurs before we become believers, “prevenient” (because that word means before) and grace (because this action by God is not deserved or earned). Hence it is called “prevenient grace”.

        So here it is in the words of Ernest, but for whatever reason he simply cannot bring himself to call it prevenient grace. I don’t care what you call it (though prevenient grace is an appropriate phrase for it), as long as you understand it is undeserved, unearned, unmerited by anything human persons do. It is the grace of God in action, coming before we are believers to lead us to Christ. Does everyone respond positively to it? No, some resist, hence it is a grace that can be resisted.

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      3. Taking the initiative to reveal Himself (by means of revelation) doesn’t mean man is born incapable of willingly believing that revelation apart from some extra working of divine aid (grace) and thus doesn’t affirm total inability from birth.

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      4. Leighton,

        I have seen Ernest argue repeatedly against the concept of “prevenient grace” claiming it is unbiblical.
        He now makes a comment where he directly talks about it, yet he does not call it “prevenient grace”.

        I was not talking about whether or not people have the ability to respond favorably to this initiative taking by God (THAT is the issue of inability). I was not speaking of this issue at all.

        Whether or not God gives people prevenient grace (i.e. a grace that comes before they become believers) is ONE THING: whether or not they have the ability to respond to this grace is ANOTHER THING.

        With that distinction in mind, you write:

        “Taking the initiative to reveal Himself (by means of revelation) doesn’t mean man is born incapable of willingly believing that revelation apart from some extra working of divine aid (grace) and thus doesn’t affirm total inability from birth.”

        Leighton you are switching topics here, I said nothing about whether “man is born incapable of willingly believing that revelation”, again THAT is the issue of INABILITY. I am not talking about THAT.

        You then write “apart from some extra working of divine aid (grace)”.

        This is still the issue of inability.

        Now I know you want to argue for inability, as you have many times here at your blog, and that is fine, but that is not this argument, not the issue.

        This argument concerns whether or not God gives grace to people before they believe, whether or not the actions that God takes in initiating things with a person is a grace that comes before they believe. If people think though things carefully they will arrive at the conclusion that God does take the initiative in leading a person to Christ. And that taking the initiative is undeserved, unmerited, unearned, it is therefore properly called “grace”.

        Seems to me that everyone believes in a grace that comes before a person believes. Where the disagreement comes in is to how does this grace relates to a person’s ability to believe, their ability to have a faith response.

        So you have some who believe that this grace comes only to the elect, and that this comes through regeneration with this regeneration then producing faith and repentance in a person (i.e. calvinism’s regeneration precedes faith doctrine). Some believe that if God gives grace to a person that person will inevitably believe (i.e. calvinism’s irresistible grace doctrine).

        Others believe that all receive an opportunity to believe at some point in their lives because at some point God takes the initiative to reveal Himself to every person (this is not to be confused with universalism however as that is the false doctrine that eventually all will become believers).

        There are various understandings of the nature of grace and what it does or does not do in a person’s life.

        I am not talking about the effect of grace but rather the simple point that some sort of grace occurs before a person believes and that it is perfectly appropriate to call this “prevenient grace”. In my observation even folks who may reject the term “prevenient grace” don’t reject the concept once it is explained as a grace that goes before salvation. This initiative that God takes is not deserved, not earned, not merited, and therefore it ***is*** grace.

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      5. Well, I may have misunderstood. I often help people to understand that God’s revelation (sending the gospel for instance) is gracious and its needed prior to one believing (how can they believe in one whom they have not heard, Rom. 10:14). And so, in that way I am affirming the need for a prior (prevenient) working of revelation (grace) by which we may believe it. But that is typically NOT what is meant by Arminians who use the term Prevenient Grace (as I’m sure you already know). Arminians teach that God must enable (aid/grace) the lost to believe the gracious revelation of God because all people lost that ability in the fall. I reject that idea, as I suspect others here do as well.

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      6. Leighton,

        “Well, I may have misunderstood.”

        I think you did misunderstand, I caught a person who repeatedly denies prevenient grace, using the concept without the terminology. That is what I wanted to point out, that is what I wanted out in the open for all to see.

        “ I often help people to understand that God’s revelation (sending the gospel for instance) is gracious and its needed prior to one believing (how can they believe in one whom they have not heard, Rom. 10:14). And so, in that way I am affirming the need for a prior (prevenient) working of revelation (grace) by which we may believe it.”

        Well see I think the term PG may be defined differently by different people. My concern is those who deny the term entirely but then use the concept (i.e. the concept is a grace that goes before salvation) are speaking ambiguously and also unfairly about the term.

        “But that is typically NOT what is meant by Arminians who use the term Prevenient Grace (as I’m sure you already know). Arminians teach that God must enable (aid/grace) the lost to believe the gracious revelation of God because all people lost that ability in the fall. I reject that idea, as I suspect others here do as well.”

        And that is fine Leighton, as long as you are not rejecting the concept that God must take the initiative for anyone to be saved, they cannot be saved on their own. Unless God works graciously in them they are not going to believe. We have been through this before, the preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary, if it does not happen, the person will not just believe on their own.

        As you also know, being theologically informed, one of the reason calvinists, Arminians and others harp on the necessity of grace is that we want to protect against Pelagian beliefs (i.e. that man is basically good, that he needs nothing to be saved because he can be saved through his own efforts).

        While I disagree with the calvinist Vern Poythress he does make a very valid point when he speaks of look at the CONCERNS people have when they debate. What are they concerned about?

        Well talk of PG being necessary comes from those concerned about how non-saved people are being represented. Are they falsely being represented as basically good people who just are not perfect and just need more education (a total denial of depravity)? Or are they biblically presented as rebellious against God, hardened by sin, not merely in need of more education but in need of spiritual transformation (in a condition of depravity but not in the sense as argued by calvinists as spiritual zombies). Granted Calvinists go too far in their depiction of people as spiritual zombies incapable of doing anything or understanding anything unless regenerated first. But that is an extreme, and it is also unbiblical. At the same time we have to balance biblical statements about people not seeking after God, being corrupt, angry by nature, etc.

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      7. Leighton,

        You said… “Taking the initiative to reveal Himself (by means of revelation) doesn’t mean man is born incapable of willingly believing that revelation apart from some extra working of divine aid (grace) and thus doesn’t affirm total inability from birth.”

        When God graciously approached Adam and Eve in the garden, this visitation in no way addressed their fallen nature. For both the Calvinist and Arminian, the depraved nature must be addressed first if there is to be any hope of a faith response. Prevenient grace, in the Calvinistic/Arminian scheme, is their solution/remedy for TD/TI.

        We don’t (nor have we ever) deny that God always takes the initiative with His creation. We just don’t see this initiative overcoming/removing/addressing the issue of depravity thus enabling/restoring man’s ability to believe.

        God bless, brother.

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      8. Phillip’s back! How nice!

        He writes:

        “When God graciously approached Adam and Eve in the garden, this visitation in no way addressed their fallen nature.”

        It appears that Phillip wants to deny that fallen mankind has a fallen nature, usually called a “sin nature”. This is difficult to square with scripture, e.g. when Paul says “we were by nature children of wrath”, that is a comment about our fallen nature and it is not a declaration that that nature apart from God is good.

        “For both the Calvinist and Arminian, the depraved nature must be addressed first if there is to be any hope of a faith response.”

        That is an incoherent statement as the Bible never speaks of the nature as being a person. Rather nature refers to what a person characteristically does (this is why speaks of people as being led by the flesh (i.e. they characteristically live a life of sin, not a life of pleasing God) or by the Spirit (i.e. they characteristically live a life that seeks to please God). People of course are mixed in terms of their doing good and bad. A hardened criminal may have killed folks and done some awful stuff to people, yet he has tender feelings and love for his Mom. A believer may have the Holy Spirit indwelling them and yet at times they may engage in sin.

        When the bible speaks of “natures” this is a way of contrasting the believing and unbelieving lifestyle (see especially the writings of Paul, flesh vs. Spirit, dead vs. alive, etc.). So there is no need for the depraved nature to be addressed first. God speaks to persons, and those persons are either unbelievers (characterized as “slaves of sin”, being led by the flesh, spiritually dead, etc.) or believers (characterized as “free from slavery to sin”, being led by the Spirit, spiritually alive, etc.)

        Phillip loves to say that I am Arminian, and I don’t mind the label. Yet at the same time Phillip claims that all Arminians view prevenient grace as if it is some sort of cure for depravity. So he makes erroneous statements like the following:

        “Prevenient grace, in the Calvinistic/Arminian scheme, is their solution/remedy for TD/TI.”

        PG is not solution or remedy for depravity. Even as believers we are still sinners, still corrupt, not yet glorified. I am according to Phillip an Arminian, and yet I don’t view PG as a solution or remedy for TD/TI.

        And this brings up a major problem in Phillip’s thinking, something he shows over and over again: he wants to paint all Arminians as believing X or Y. But this is false.

        Take the issue of eternal security. While many Arminian deny it, I do not. As a Baptist I have always affirmed eternal security/I believe the bible properly interpreted shows the genuine believer will never lose their salvation, never become lost and unsaved. Yet Phillip will make statements that all Arminians deny eternal security and this is just blatantly false.

        It is also blatantly false to claim that all Arminians believe PG is a solution/remedy for TD/TI. Perhaps this may be true of some, but not of all, and not of me.

        It is easy to explain why Phillip paints with such broad strokes, he has shown he hates both calvinists and Arminians, desperately trying to avoid both and argue against both. If Phillip is Baptist this is a mistake as he holds Arminian beliefs. Here are some Arminian beliefs that I have no doubt Phillip holds just like any “Arminian.” The belief that Jesus died for the whole world, i.e. unlimited atonement is an Arminian belief, Phillip holds that. The belief that the grace of God can be and sometimes is resisted that the Spirit can be resisted, is an Arminian belief, Phillip holds that. The belief in libertarian free will is an Arminian belief, Phillip holds that. The denial of unconditional election is an Arminian belief, Phillip holds that. The denial of irresistible grace is an Arminian belief, Phillip holds that. I point this out because Phillip rails against Arminians and yet from his posts he clearly holds some of the major Arminian beliefs.

        I think some like Philip are just not that theologically informed so they rail against Arminian theology not realizing they hold much of it. The reality is that there is much held in common between say an SBC Traditionalist and an Arminian. True they may disagree on inability, but that is not that significant in light of what they hold in common.

        “We don’t (nor have we ever) deny that God always takes the initiative with His creation.”

        Spoken like a true Arminian! 🙂

        “We just don’t see this initiative overcoming/removing/addressing the issue of depravity thus enabling/restoring man’s ability to believe.”

        And Phillip can deny inability, not a major problem, in light of all of the other Arminian beliefs he holds! 🙂 

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      1. More than grace? Is it not “amazing” anymore? I was shocked when I last discussed with a “goodness” of man adherent, that he actually went as far to say grace is really something we merit by our actions! This should be a huge red flag to us… removing the ground of the Cross puts man into enemy territory!

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      2. Also, if he really believes man is inherently sinful and doesn’t want to “pussy foot” around, he should simply say he believes depravity doesn’t remove a positive response to God, not deny depravity altogether. Talk about throwing out the….. baby….. with the bathwater. As of now, this “Pelagian” is not just a “boogey man” as he claims, he is denying a fundamental truth of grace and facet of the need for the Gospel, and encouraging people who are enemies of the Cross proclaiming the inherent goodness of man. I’m sorry but that’s the “dividing line” as far as grace goes, or it is no longer grace we need but God owes all men salvation at birth!!!

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  3. I agree that your version is much more biblical than Calvinism. Or as you say Gods Word is understandable by the unregenerate man and that God created him with that ability to understand and to respond and that also God takes the first initiative to reveal Himself to all men.Men can respond in faith to Gods grace and love towards them.But instead Calvinism wrongly says most men cannot respond to the gospel unless they were elected to by a irresistible grace and faith granted to them which is not what Bible tells us

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    1. Yea, Bud, when I started to take prevenient grace seriously—instead of this Calvinistic pride that loves to shrug off any different idea—I started seeing it all over the place. Even in the garden of Eden, man did NOT seek out God. Could you say Adam and Eve were able to go look for God? I believe they were able. But that is a picture of the grace of God. When man fell, God sought him out, and said “Did you sin?” But Adam and Eve, remember, were promised death. Did God talk to dead people? Did God lie about the death? Yes and no. God talked to dead people that day, and he still does today. I hate that denying total depravity and obsessing over that, instead of irresistible grace, many Arminians are falling into the trap of the devil that says man is good without Christ. Satan’s power comes all from Adam, and he would love, love, love for us to think people are born completely unrelated to Adam, as if they had nothing at all to do with Adam, and were just pure and good and holy, but all to a man—all to a man, as soon as they can sin, just “happen” to freely choose to sin. Those odds are not ones I would take, lol. The Bible says sin lives in us, and that is the cause of sin—not that we sin, and that makes sin live in us. It all goes back to Adam’s sin and Christ’s cross, Adam’s sin and Christ’s cross. If you find yourself longer for greener pastures than that and wondering outside of that gate, take note: there’s a smile on the devil’s face. Just remember that.

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  4. Primarily for PHILLIP’S sake but also for others. A point needs to be made regarding the beliefs of Traditionalists and Arminians. Some like Phillip for whatever reason seem to despise Arminians. But this makes no sense for two reasons.

    First, Arminians like Traditionalists have a common theological adversary, Calvinists and their false deterministic theology. Arminians and Traditionalists should understand the real threat comes from Calvinism.

    Second, if you look at individual beliefs Traditionalists and Arminians share a lot in common. I know at this blog that Leighton wants to distance himself from Arminians on the issue of inability. But put that one aside and there really are not many differences between Arminians and Traditionalists. Both believe that Calvinism is false. Both believe that Jesus died for the whole world (universal atonement) and reject limited atonement. Both believe that God desires for all to be saved and gives opportunities for all to be saved. Both believe that God’s grace can be resisted, and they both deny the Calvinist view of irresistible grace. Both affirm conditional election (whether individual or corporate) and deny unconditional election. Both affirm libertarian free will and deny determinism including the theological determinism/compatibilism of Calvinism. While some Traditionalists claim that Arminians deny eternal security, this is not true of many Arminians especially those in Baptist circles such as myself. I affirm eternal security and yet I would be characterized by most as Arminian.

    It is fine if Traditionalists want to differentiate themselves from Arminians on the issue of inability. But aside from this, the distance is not very great in fact there is actually a lot of overlap when it comes to what both groups believe. This is why it is senseless for people like Phillip to lump Calvinists and Arminians together as if they are the threat. The threat is Calvinism and its false theology. Traditionalists and Arminians ought to have no problem working together when you consider how many beliefs they hold in common, working against Calvinism the real threat.

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    1. Calvinists and Arminians both agree over the doctrine of total inability.The Arminians and Calvinists both wrongly teach total inability of the unregenerate to repent and believe the gospel.The traditionalists I believe have the biblical view that the unregenerate can respond in faith to the gospel as a result of Jesus drawing all men to himself because of his work on the cross for all mankind just as He said he would.

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      1. I think it can be seen generally, that Calvinists are much more united in their conception of Total Inability than Arminians typically are.
        This should be understandable, since Total Inability is a primary defense argument for the Calvinist system, where divine universal intent to save ALL mankind, tends to be a primary component of Arminian persuasions.

        The Arminian trend is to hold that God desires to save all “Universally”, and they interpret “God desires *ALL* men saved” , (in logical terminology) – – as a *Universal* Positive Proposition. Where the Calvinist interprets the word “ALL” to mean “SOME”, which turns the biblical declaration (in logical terminology) – – into a *Particular* Positive Proposition. Hence the Calvinist term: “Particular Redemption”. And we know that in logic, a Particular Positive Proposition logically infers a Particular Negative Proposition (In Calvinism’s case, that God desires SOME men NOT saved.) And it is illuminating to point out that a Particular Negative Proposition is a direct contradiction of a Universal Positive Proposition. They can’t be both true at the same time.

        I think Bud is right in pointing out that the “traditionalist” does not take the “bondage of corruption” to the extreme, in asserting that man has no ability to respond to the power of Jesus, unless he is first “vivified” in a way which parallels the Manichean doctrine of the “Divine Spark”. This conception of Total Inability can be seen as an invention designed to defend Calvinism’s underlying doctrine of Universal Divine Causal Determinism…..the underlying substratum, corner-stone, and foundation of the Augustinian/Calvinist system.

        But to be truthful, we would want to precisely define the word “traditionalist” in this statement. I think it can be readily proven that the (pre-Augustine) Post Apostolic Fathers were mostly united in their view that God allows post-fallen man to retain enough “free will” and liberty…..enabled by *Universal* divine grace, to comprehend the gift of Salvation by Christ, and either accept or reject it. And a preponderance of Arminians tend to express those sentiments, although a few may not.

        The Calvinist, however, conceives Total Inability along the line of the Manichean’s “Divine Spark” conception, as a critical component of his theology. So divine enabling grace in the Calvinist system is directed towards *Particular* recipients, where the Arminian generally conceives of divine enabling grace as directed towards ALL mankind *Universally*.

        So it might be fair to say that the key difference between the two systems, is that one generally holds to *Universal* divine benevolent intent, where the other holds to *Particular* divine benevolent intent. And this (Universal vs Particular) difference is what differentiates the two system’s conceptions of both Total Inability and Prevenient types of grace.

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      2. Bud,

        You say that C’s and A’s “both agree over the doctrine of total inability”. I’m not sure that I would agree with that as many, many people consider me Arminian (e.g. Phillip who loves to point out that I am Arminian and a member of an Arminian organization SEA). I hold the major Arminian beliefs including denial of unconditional election, affirmation of unlimited atonement, denial of irresistible grace, affirmation of libertarian free will, affirmation that God desires the salvation of all.

        Yet as a Baptist I also hold eternal security (and I know other Arminians who hold to eternal security), that a genuinely saved person cannot lose their salvation.

        Regarding “inability” I do not believe that a person’s nature has to be changed first for them to be able to believe (e.g. the doctrine that a person must be regenerated first to be able to believe). I also believe that a person cannot come to Christ unless they experience the preconversion work of the Spirit (i.e. He has to convict them of their sin, reveal Jesus to them, reveal that Jesus is the way of salvation, that we can only be saved by faith not our own works, etc. etc.). So a person is unable to come to Christ on their own unless the Spirit works in them first. This work can be resisted, but it is necessary for a person to have a faith response to the gospel. Clearly I am not Calvinist, and again many would say I am Arminian. It should also be pointed out that just as Calvinists do not agree on everything neither do Arminians.

        I think rather than declare that all Arminians hold to X, Y, or Z. It needs to be more nuanced, you have to look at Arminians on a case by case manner. Sure there is agreement on denying unconditional election, affirming unlimited atonement, etc. but there is also disagreement on eternal security and also even on the nature of “inability.”

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      3. Bud you say:
        The traditionalists I believe have the biblical view that the unregenerate can respond in faith to the gospel as a result of Jesus drawing all men to himself because of his work on the cross for all mankind just as He said he would.

        You contrast that to the “incorrect” view of Arminians. But I see a problem here: you are sneaking into my theological worldview, taking one of my foundations back into your own, then after condemning my view. What do I mean? I’m saying that you cannot express your view without using prevenient grace, because it is that intuitively Biblical people know in their heart it would be wrong to deny it. Calvinists often feel this with free will—to separate God from sin. They sneak into the Arminian theology, steal free will, take it back into determinism, and viola, they call it “compatibilism.” Atheists do this too. They sneak into the Christian worldview, steal objective moral standards, go back into atheism and call it “secular humanism.” It’s the “eat your cake and have it too” fallacy.

        You are sneaking into Arminian soteriology, stealing prevenient grace, taking it back, and then condemning total depravity with it.

        Look what you say:
        “drawing all men”
        “because of his work on the cross”
        “as a result of Jesus”
        “as He said he would do”

        If man is inherently born good he does not need any of the above. God owes the righteous and the innocent justice—he says so in his Word.

        Now the wages of the worker are not credited as a gift, but as an obligation.

        Pay everyone what you owe him

        And if it is by grace, then it is no longer by works. Otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.

        But you seem to think the view as you expressed it is not as Arminians believe or accept it, because you avoided two words “depravity” and “inability.” Because you think those words make God unjust, that if people are born sinners without their choice, even if God still offers them all an opportunity to be saved, it is still too unjust of God to allow them all to be born in a sinful condition.

        Like the Calvinist needs to not be inconsistent about free will, and just preach total hard determinism of all things even all sins against God, like the Atheist needs to be consistent about objective morality, and say that raping babies is not morally wrong but just subjectively unpleasant, so the Traditionalist needs to stop stealing from Arminian soteriology and become consistent—and preach that all men are born pure, righteous and inherently good, thus worthy of salvation and in no need of grace whatsoever in any way, shape or form—they are perfectly righteous before God until they (apparently due to the injustice of God to allow them to be born into so many temptations they literally cannot every say no, not even billions of them), that is, until they freely choose from their perfectly righteous standing to betray the God they were born loving and devoted to and empowered to serve.

        Stop stealing our grace!

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      4. Roger Olson who is a Arminian Bible Doctor teaches that Calvinism and Arminianism both teach the T. from the TU.L.I.P. Or that the unregenerate have total inability to respond in faith to the gospel.The traditionalist does not have that unbiblical view but instead teaches that the unregenerate can respond in faith to the gospel.Roger Olson clearly teaches both Calvinism and Arminianism teach total inability of unregenerate people to respond in faith to the gospel

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      5. Yes, I agree, but this is a hypothetical inability to acknowledge the depths of God’s grace.

        What I would ask is what ability do you think man has without grace, with ZERO GRACE, no grace at all, NONE, absolutely bankrupt of all grace, what ability does man have, what would you say?

        Again, if you say man needs grace, you say man is unable. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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      6. Bible says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and that faith comes by hearing the Word or Gospel.The prodigal son was dead and lost or spiritually dead and separated from God yet he was not without inability to change his mind and come to his senses and be reconciled to God.The grace of God has appeared to all men through the Gospel.Even Gods law tutors the unregenerate that they are in sin and leads them to the Savoir.They do not need to be regenerated or saved first to respond in faith to the gospel as Cal;vinism teaches.Nor do they need a prevenient grace to cause them to then be free of total inability to respond to the gospel.Jesus and Apostles never made the gospel so difficult to receive as Calvinists and Arminians do

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      7. Bud,

        I agree with much of what you say here in your post. Except for one thing as we will see:

        “Bible says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and that faith comes by hearing the Word or Gospel.”

        True, faith comes by hearing the Word, and who is giving understanding of this Word?

        Who is convicting the person of their sin so that they see the need for forgiveness?

        My point is that the Word does not go out alone, the Holy Spirit works with the Word to lead people to Christ.

        “The prodigal son was dead and lost or spiritually dead and separated from God yet he was not without inability to change his mind and come to his senses and be reconciled to God.”

        Well the parable shows that God is already to embrace those who have rebelled against Him, as the Father ran to meet the son upon his return. But we cannot use that parable to teach about what the Holy Spirit does or does not do before a person is saved as that is not the point of the parable and the work of the Spirit is totally absent from the parable.

        “The grace of God has appeared to all men through the Gospel. Even Gods law tutors the unregenerate that they are in sin and leads them to the Savoir.”

        Does the law “tutor the unregenerate” WITHOUT THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT?

        “They do not need to be regenerated or saved first to respond in faith to the gospel as Cal;vinism teaches.”

        Agreed, the nature of a person does not need to be changed first for them to be saved. I would also note here that according to scripture there are only two types of people, the saved (with a new nature characterized as freed from the power of sin) and the lost (characterized as slaves of sin).

        “Nor do they need a prevenient grace to cause them to then be free of total inability to respond to the gospel.”

        Bud, have you ever considered that prevenient grace (means grace that comes before, comes before a person is saved) and simply refers to the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit who leads people to salvation?

        According to scripture the Spirit convicts of sin (if we are not convicted of sin we cannot be saved, because we have to be convicted of sin and then repent and believe) reveals Christ to a person (no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit), reveals that we are separated from God by our sin, reveals that Jesus is the only way of salvation, etc. etc. All of these things done by the Spirit are done before a person become a believer. If PG is viewed as the preconversion work of the Spirit, then this is necessary before a person comes to faith. Without the work of the Spirit/PG, a person cannot become a believer.

        “Jesus and Apostles never made the gospel so difficult to receive as Calvinists and Arminians do”

        I don’t think this is quite accurate Bud. I don’t make the gospel difficult to receive, I just tell people about Jesus, who he is, what He did, how He died for their sins, how he desires a saving and personal relationship with them. I do a lot of evangelism, with others that I work with, and we have been involved in hundreds of conversions of folks to Christianity. One of the things we do is that we ask people about their testimonies, about how they came to Christ, what actually happened to them. All of them respond to what they hear about Jesus, all of them can relate personal experiences they have had with the Holy Spirit revealing things to them.

        Put another way, if you present scripture and talk about Jesus, the Holy Spirit is always present and involved (cf. the Spirit seeks to exalt Jesus, so when we lift him up and tell others about Him the Spirit will always be working). This also means that when a person comes to faith, it is not because of our intelligence, our techniques, our speaking abilities, No, it results from the Spirit working in their hearts and minds and them then trusting in Christ for salvation. The presentation is easy, because of the powerful work of the Spirit, we just tell people about Jesus.

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      8. Thanks for answering Bud. I agree with your entire post except that man doesn’t need any grace. I don’t see that prideful teaching anywhere in Scripture. Have you ever thought the Prodigal Son parable actually illustrates inability and grace? Yea, first the son remember the Father’s unconditional love, that love was undeserved and grace. But next, the son stayed sinful, he didn’t repent for godly reasons. He just wanted selfishly more food and lodging. Plus he still thought his father wouldn’t forgive him. He was sinful from start to finish, Bud, and only grace moved his heart. For one minute set aside what you’ve heard teachers repeat over and over, and just look at the Bible for what it says with fresh eyes. You’ll find grace really does stay amazing, and we don’t have to add human self-righteousness.

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    2. I agree Robert.Both Traditionalists and Arminians should unite against Calvinism for all the reasons you have told us to do.Because Calvinism as you discussed is really against God and his character and willingness or desire for all men to be saved as Bible clearly says.Neither Arminianism or Traditionalism takes that view.But Calvinism does take that unbiblical view through their false teachings of unlimited atonement and unconditional election that both Arminianism and Traditionalism does not teach.

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      1. Bud,

        Happy to see that you agree on this. Both Traditionalists on SBC sites and Arminians have noted the same thing about Calvinism (i.e. that if it were true it makes God’s character appear to be bad and even evil, e.g. if he ordains every event and preplans them all then He preplans and desires for every sinful act that occurs to occur exactly has it occurs, that undermines His holiness. e.g. if God selects most of the human race for damnation before they are born then God is acting in a hostile and evil way towards these unsaved persons). Traditionalists and some Arminians can disagree on inability, but in the whole scheme this is a minor disagreement considering the errors made by Calvinists.

        E.g – Reprobation is a much worse doctrine than making an error on inability. If you make an error on inability you don’t make God’s character look bad or evil. If on the other hand, you make an error on reprobation and affirm that reprobation is true, then you make God appear to be evil.

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  5. What I am meaning to say is that I believe it is un biblical to say the unregenerate have total inability to respond to the Gospel in faith.That is what both Calvinists and Arminians wrongly teach.The Calvinists wrongly teach that the unregenerate must first be regenerated before they can respond in faith to the gospel.And the Arminians wrongly teach because the unregenerate have total inability to respond in faith to the gospel they must first experience what they call prevenient grace to free them from their inability to respond in faith to the gospel.Would not it be better to teach what the traditionalist teaches.He teaches that the unregenerate do not have total inability to respond in faith to the gospel.Even that hearing the gospel can enable their hearts to respond in faith to Christ and his work done on the cross for all mankind that reveals to the unregenerate Gods loving desire to reconcile them and save them

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    1. Bud,

      “What I am meaning to say is that I believe it is un biblical to say the unregenerate have total inability to respond to the Gospel in faith.”

      Could we make a distinction between (1) inability due to nature (i.e. the idea that something about the nonbeliever’s nature makes it impossible for them to respond to the gospel, unless this nature is somehow changed) and (2) inability due to lack of experiencing the preconversion work of the Spirit (i.e. the idea that the nonbeliever has the ability to respond to the gospel, but they must first experience the preconversion work of the Spirit to be able to have a faith response to the gospel, i.e. they must be convicted of their sin, must have Jesus revealed to them, must understand that the gospel is the way of salvation, must know that they must trust in Jesus to be saved, etc. all the things the Spirit does in a person before they become believers).

      I think you are focusing on (1) thinking that ALL calvinists and Arminians believe in an inability due to nature.

      As for me (and again many would characterize me as “Arminian”) and the others that I work with and have trained in evangelism, we believe in (2). So we do not believe the sinner’s nature must be changed first for them to be able to believe. At the same time, we also do not believe they can become a believer unless they have experienced the preconversion work of the Spirit.

      “That is what both Calvinists and Arminians wrongly teach.”

      If you mean (1) then it is true that many Calvinists and Arminians believe in (1), but not all. And not me and the folks I have trained.

      “The Calvinists wrongly teach that the unregenerate must first be regenerated before they can respond in faith to the gospel.”

      Agree, and that idea that regeneration must occur first, is based on this idea of inability due to nature. I don’t accept that idea and agree with you on this.

      “And the Arminians wrongly teach because the unregenerate have total inability to respond in faith to the gospel they must first experience what they call prevenient grace to free them from their inability to respond in faith to the gospel.”

      Not quite accurate, again I am Arminian according to most people’s characterization. I do not believe that prevenient grace must free a person first from their inability to respond.

      PG instead refers to the work of the Spirit before a person becomes a believer. It is necessary because without being convicted of sin by the Spirit, having Jesus revealed to you by the Spirit, etc. a person will not become a believer.

      Imagine if the Holy Spirit did nothing in the hearts and minds of people before they become believers (as if He did not even exist): could a person still become a believer?

      I would say No way.

      Would you agree?

      Or do you believe that a person can become a believer without experiencing the preconversion work of the Spirit?

      “Would not it be better to teach what the traditionalist teaches. He teaches that the unregenerate do not have total inability to respond in faith to the gospel.”

      Now here it gets real fun. I agree with the Traditionalist that the unregenerate do not have total inability to respond in faith to the gospel. At the same time I believe the preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary in order for a person to become a believer. This is where that distinction between (1) and (2) above comes in.

      I also believe this preconversion work of the Spirit can be resisted. I know some folks who have heard multiple gospel presentations, they understand they are sinners, they understand who Jesus is, all things revealed to them by the Spirit. And yet they are not believers. Because they refuse to bow the knee to Jesus as Lord. They understand that if they become believers then Jesus is Master and they are the servant, and they don’t want that. So they have the understanding to believe, they have the ability to believe and yet they are not believers.

      “Even that hearing the gospel can enable their hearts to respond in faith to Christ and his work done on the cross for all mankind that reveals to the unregenerate Gods loving desire to reconcile them and save them.”

      So again do you believe a person can become a believer without experiencing the preconversion work of the Spirit?

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      1. Robert
        God’s revelation is an act of grace but it does not change man so that he is able to believe. It merely provides man an opportunity to believe. All men are given this opportunity. If you call this provenience grace, fine. I call it grace. The Bible never speaks of a separate type of prevenient grace. Neither do I.

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    2. You’re stealing Arminian grace and bringing it back to the Traditionalist view, again. If mankind is not sinful and is inherently good, their hearts need no “enabling” at all. It’s like you want to separate the Gospel out into a separate package that sits outside the lifeboat, for people to find. The Gospel is the life boat, the life preserver, the rope, the Savior reaching down and awakening and arresting sinners to their need of salvation.

      And this constant need to straw man the Arminian position as “man cannot respond” is disingenuous and shows the weakness of the position. It hides the fact that all Arminians teach people can respond with grace, they just need grace. So if you argue against that position, you take grace away, and you shouldn’t try to hide or confuse that fact, like the Calvinists hide and confuse so many issues. It’s hypocritical to a ministry supposedly exposing Calvinism.

      And this constant disparaging of supernatural power is disturbing. The Bible from start to finish is a mystical book, Christ is the mysterion revealed, the Spirit is the deep things of God that reveals things the natural man cannot understand on his own. It is this hatred for Calvinism that has swung the pendulum way to far in the opposite direction. We should never let our disgust for a system be the defining factor in building a new one. The inner interior working of the Holy Spirit to bring life to our dead parts is one of the biggest themes in all of Scripture! So we will be saved now by his life!

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  6. Thanks Leighton for bringing attention to an important word study in the NT. The word/verb πείθω is used 53 times in the NT, and, unfortunately, the KJV and NKJV have fudged on hiding its primary meaning, relying on nuances about the results that happen when one is persuaded (obedience and trust) than on the normal meaning itself of persuasion and being persuaded. One of the must egregious examples is the translation “Obey” in Hebrews 13:17 which implies a blind obedience to church leadership (even “rule over” is a bad translation).

    The verse in 1Cor 2:4 links “persuasive” directly to “wise”, and in this context to the wisdom of men. I do believe Paul decided that his Athens’ tactics of persuasion, using quotes from heathen poets, was a waste of time with Greek thinkers who falsely judged the validity of an argument by the rhetorical form and scholarliness that was used in presenting it. Calvinists have fallen into that fallacy of “argument from authority” often. “It’s always been the position of orthodox Christianity that…”

    I think you should not limit the word “power”,which Paul recalls from his evangelistic ministry to the Corinthians as just the power of the gospel. Especially since 2Corinthians 12:12 states – “The signs of an apostle were performed with great endurance among you — not only signs but also wonders and miracles.”

    My favorite verse that encapsulates Paul’s idea of evangelistic persuasion, even though it does not use this word is Col 1:28-29 – “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.” There is no way I can read that verse and believe that Paul was thinking in the back of his mind that it is only possible for some to be saved because of divine pre-selection!

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    1. Thanks Brian.You describe Paul as being very non calvinistic.Like you said if Paul was convinced of the Calvinists doctrine of certain ones being selected to salvation and other passed over to damnation then why did he labor in proclaiming Christ or the Gospel warning and teaching everyone by Christs strength to present everyone mature in Christ.If he believed in the TULIP. Then why did he say faith comes by hearing the Word and the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.Why did he not just teach the gospel to the few selected ones after they were regenerated because according to Calvinism one must be regenerated first before he can understand and accept and believe the Gospel of Gods grace.Instead as you said from Col. 1 28-29 He labored in Christs strength to reach and present every man mature in Christ.Paul certainly believed in the provisional atonement for every man if he labored to reach every man and not in limited atonement for a few select people who must be regenerated first to even understand and believe the gospel.Its easy to see how Paul teaching and his desire that even his lost kinsmen who rejected Christ be saved contradicts the Calvinistic TULIP.

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  7. To just think aloud, is it ‘possible’ that it is the very existence of reason and choice that creates the ‘propensity’ to sin? In other words, when an individual becomes acquainted with the concept of right and wrong, of discipline and punishment, be it from parents, church or state, they come face to face with the reality that choices have consequences, which in their earlier ‘innocence’ they did not understand.

    A young, immature child requires constant supervision, instruction and protection from his own potentially poor choices. This does not suggest that the parent believes the child is inherently wicked, but that he does not yet posses the knowledge, wisdom and maturity to make ‘good’ choices. The potential to do ‘wrong’ includes physically dangerous choices like playing with knives, as well as the misuse or abuse of genuine, healthy appetites. When the evil tempter comes along with his beguiling lures, the typical child will do nearly anything for that candy that his little taste buds are salivating for.

    Many, perhaps most, immature creatures initially respond to all attempts to restrict their inherent freedom of choice with frustration and hostility, which is why many parents seek to avoid ‘confrontation’ and attempt to bribe their children into doing what they wish them to do. The child does not understand what makes him ‘angry’, but inherently knows that someone is restricting his God-given ‘freedom of choice’.

    In essence, all men are born in this ignorant or ‘innocent’ state, with an innate, but immature, gift of reason granted to them by God and the frightful responsibility for the results of its accompanying freedom of choice. Because God is a loving Father, he provides supervision and protection for the creature in its years of innocence and immaturity. He designed the family and parents for this purpose. Any thoughtful parent who has not been corrupted by parenting handbooks quickly realizes that this tiny person in their charge needs protection from their own desires until they are mature enough and wise enough to grasp the concepts of moderation, self-control and respect for others. The little child who wants to nurse 24/7 is not exhibiting ‘sin’ but a fleshly nature which has inherent, untrained appetites.

    By design, in order to survive and function, man has been made with fleshly appetites – food, water, warmth, rest, sex, etc. Imagine what life would be like if there were no such subconscious desires, and each person had to ‘learn’ the proper requirements and follow the rules in order to breathe, drink, eat, sleep etc.? This is, in effect, what happens in the case of neurologically dysfunctional persons who have to be fed, bathed, and cared for in a premeditated manner by another person because their fleshly ‘appetites’ are dysfunctional or permanently immature, just as they are in an infant.

    Most parents can look back and grasp at least dimly the progression of their child from utterly dependent innocence, to early attempts at acquiring autonomy to often outright resistance to any restrictions placed upon them. The ‘nature’ of the individual is inherently autonomous, yet the reality of universal infancy demands restriction, instruction and the comprehension of knowledge and wisdom before genuine freedom or autonomy can be granted.

    Is it possible that this is something of a picture of the ‘inherent sinful nature’? Is it perhaps the inevitable conflict that arises from the existence of immature autonomous creatures who must either learn to restrain their appetites or suffer the terrible consequences of utter lack of restraint?

    While perhaps possible, it is unlikely that any (neurotypically functional) infant has ever been born and did not exhibit his immature, unrestrained and untrained fleshly appeties. Babies cry when they are hungry, cry when they are cold, cry when they are tired and so on, because they have appetites or needs that they do not understand or have the ability to control, regulate or meet. The tired infant will initially cry without restraint, until it is either comforted and assisted in getting to sleep, or learns self-comforting skills such as sucking, rubbing cooing, etc. This does not make them a ‘dirty, rotten, little sinner’ as one christian teacher once put it, but merely a frustrated, immature slave of the flesh.

    Is it possible that this is the genuine meaning of scripture’s teaching that we are all born inherently ‘fleshly’ and incapable of self-restraint, moderation and righteousness? And is it possible that God is patient and understanding of that state, and provided the framework for protecting, instructing and leading us to maturity and righteousness? Well-intended ‘authority’ structures that are for our good, but that, when consistently resisted or rejected, lead to our harm and to our increasing depravity? And is it possible that Adam’s sin, the first deliberate act of rebellion to legitimate authority, which led to the need for punishment (death), incited the perpetual ‘rebellion’ of men who perpetually chafe at the ‘fence’ that now surrounds mankind? Does Genesis perhaps teach us that this fence was always intended to be for our good, always temporary and that ‘the promise’ of a future, unfettered, eternal existence was given to and understood by Adam and his progeny? And that some ‘children of men’ submitted to their time of restraint, discipline and training while others rebelled, refused instruction and demanded to be allowed to have their own way?

    Is it possible that we ‘read into’ scripture potentially misconstrued conceptions and definitions of even the most basic concepts, such as ‘natural man’, ‘sin’, ‘righteousness’, ‘salvation’ and so on, due to the traditions and doctrines of men, some of which have been handed down for centuries? Is it possible that the entire ‘sinners in the hand of an angry God’ concept of Calvinism is a complete corruption of ‘children in rebellion against their loving Father’? Have we ignored the warnings of scripture to seek the indwelling guidance of the very Spirit of God and instead adopted the ‘traditions of men’, allowing the definitions and interpretations of ‘the rulers’ of the church to lead us once again into darkness and slavery? Is it possible?

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