Sunday, January 31, 2010

More with Marcus

Continuing in my discussion with Marcus, he responds to my contention that John 12:32 clearly says that Jesus will draw all to Himself: John 12:32 says "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Jesus is not saying that all men - every single person is drawn to Jesus - all kinds of people are.This particular translations makes it clear - "all peoples". Brennon, you are definitely right that we do indeed agree that not everyone is drawn at the same intensity or even at the same time, but no one gets saved without that drawing.

The translation he used is one of my favorites, the NKJV. However, I think this translation falls short of capturing what this verse is saying. Most other translations say, "all men" and not "all peoples". In looking at the original Greek, you will see that that phrase is added in by the translators for clarity (as seen here). Thus, the verse would actually literally read "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to Myself." Translating this to read this as a drawing of all kinds of people or something like that is showing a prior theological bent, because the Greek reading is just "all". You are correct, Marcus, that no one is saved without the drawing of Christ, but that is not what is being debated. We both agree on that.

We also agree that people frustates the desires of God to come to him. We don't want God. We don't look for Him. We never will if God does not initiate the relationship

Marcus, this isn't really the case. In Calvinism, God has chosen a select few to bestow His grace on. When He does this, this grace is irresistible, in that it is outside the capability of the will of man to resist this. Man cannot frustrate the purpose of God in drawing them irresistibly. This is what a major portion of this debate boils down to; is God's grace such that it can be resisted or not? We both agree that it is necessary. I have displayed clear passages of man resisting the Holy Spirit and frustrating the desire of God. This is because God allows this measure of freedom so He might have a genuine love relationship with His creatures.

Regarding Acts 13:46 - what else can an unregenerate man do but reject Jesus?

This is the point though. It's clear that Stephen recognized the work of the Holy Spirit in these people's lives. They were resisting the teaching and drawing of the Holy Spirit in the teachings of Stephen. Thus, the work of the Holy Spirit can be resisted by men.

I admit that I don't read Greek, nor can I use the grammar well but I don't see any difference between the two definitions. I mean to put something in place or to arrange something really isn't different firom fixing or determining or appointing with regards to that which is being τάσσω.

Arminians believe that God must put in place the ability to believe in the gospel. He arranges circumstances for people to hear the gospel and respond. The work of the Holy Spirit on the heart is also arranging for a person to believe. This is all very similar to what the Calvinist believes except we contend that it is not an irresistible work. God allows a person to resist if they choose. If they cease resisting, He will complete the transformation, regenerating their heart. If we are to say that God "fixes" or "determines" a time for an individual to believe, then it is an irresistible and predetermined act and impossible to see where the responsibility of man lies.

I think scripture plainly gives complete credit four our accepting the call to repentance and our rejection as own fault. I don't see how they shut the door because the door was shut for them in the first place.

I'm not sure what you're saying here completely. As for the door shutting, Acts 13:46 says, "Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.'" They rejected it. They judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. It's clear that the offer was open and genuine and able to be accepted by these people, but they thrust the gospel from themselves. It wasn't withheld by God, it was pushed away by men.

I also think that James White deserves more credit than what you have stated.

I will confess I'm not a big fan of James White, nor of Steve Gregg. I'm sure they're both brothers in the Lord, but I disagree with the tactics of the former and the latter I don't really know that much about.

You have articulated the salvation process as I would have about 10 years ago. What changed my mind was the realization that all people are hell bound as a default.

But Marcus, I agree that people are hellbound by default.

It's not up in the air, until a person makes a decision - from the time you are born and accountable for your sins (we'll skip the babies, young children, and mientally handicapped for now) you, me, all people deserve hell. And the understanding that no one can be saved unless they are drawn

This isn't a point of disagreement between us. We agree here.

If I understand you, you are saying that God tweaks a person just enough so that they can make a free decision.

Then you haven't understood me Marcus. I have tried to make crystal clear that the grace of God is completely necessary in every aspect of salvation. It is God alone who works on our heart, drawing and calling us for salvation. It is God's work alone that saves. Our only command is to stop resisting and put our faith in Jesus for our salvation. As Arminius writes:

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, "that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life," and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man -- such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace.1(emphasis mine)

He also said:

"Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. . .I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this -- that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.2

I agree with that completely. Man is never able in his natural state to do any true spiritual good. This is why God is the one who seeks us. It's not just a "nudge," Marcus. He is imploring us to come to Him.

However, if God has to and does nudge you just enough so that you can says yes (and you would not say yes otherwise) why doesn't he nudge everyone so that they say yes and no one has to go hell?

Because some resist this calling. He calls all but not all respond.

Okay. The problem is we know that by default no one has faith.

It's not a problem though, Marcus. I agree with you on this.

What is it that make a person say "Yes" after by definition they said "No,"?

In this question you're assuming that something must make us choose something. That is begging the question.

Scripture says that they say "No" because it is the only choice they can make. (Romans 8:5-8; Hebrews 11:6)

That passage from Romans are dealing with man in his natural state. If God shows His grace to someone, they can exercise faith.

Calvinism does not explain why the elect are chosen other than that God wanted to do

I didn't say it does. But in being chosen by God from eternity past, you are automatically better than the non-chosen pagan.

No. Scripture says that it is God causing us to accept God

Actually scripture only affirms that God enables us to come to Him.

Matthew 11:27 does not say that Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to everyone either

Jesus says He chooses who to reveal the Father to, and then says "come to Me ALL you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is Jesus extending the gospel to anyone who will respond, not just a select few. This is widening the gospel call, not restricting it.

How can you say that God does not cause us to enter into union with Christ in that we can't go unless He enables us to do so?

Enabling someone to do something doesn't mean they will necessarily do it.

I admire William Lane Craig (WLC) but I have to disagree with him on this, partly. He rejects that we are hostile to God prior to conversion.

He absolutely does not, Marcus. On page 46 of the third edition of Reasonable Faith, Craig writes, "Here the Holy Spirit's ministry is threefold: he convicts the unbeliever of his own sin, of God's righteousness, and of his condemnation before God...This is the way it has to be. For if it weren't for the work of the Holy Spirit, no one would ever become a Christian" (emphasis his).3 He goes on to affirm that natural man does not seek God in the next sentence, quoting from Romans. You can read the page online here.

His theology does not address this problem. Your's attempts to but tries to hold on to libertarian free will.

I have the suspicion, Marcus, that you're taking someone's second hand word for this, as I have just shown that Craig does deal with this. His and my position are virtually identical on this point.

The truth is if it's going to keep my butt out of hell, I'll be God's puppet but I think it's way more complicated then that

The problem that arises from this kind of determinism is God as the author of sin.

Um, but that is what Paul wrote.

No, Paul did not write God chose us to be in Christ. He wrote that He chose us in Christ.

Sorry this response took so long. I have been busy lately. God bless you, brother.

1 James Arminius, Works Of Arminius - The Grace Of God, http://www.godrules.net/library/arminius/arminius10.htm

2 James Arminius, Works Of Arminius - Grace and Free Will, http://www.godrules.net/library/arminius/arminius155.htm

3 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Illinois: Crossway Books, Third Edition 2008), p. 46

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Debating Election, Predestination, and the Extent of the Atonement with Marcus

My brother in Christ, Marcus, and I have been having an informal debate over the extent of the atonement as prompted by Dan's, another fellow Arminian blogger, post on Ephesians 1. Marcus responded to that blog post here. Dan responded here. Then Marcus responded again here (you will find my comments in the combox beginning here).

This post is in response to Marcus' latest rebuttal found here.

Brennon, where does scripture say that God gives draws everyone to the same extent with the same intensity?

The Bible never says that explicitly, but I don't think it has to. With verses like John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, and 2 Peter 3:9, the burden of proof rests on the Calvinist to show that God has not provided salvation for all.

Where does the Bible say God draws everyone period?

John 12:32 for one. Here it seems to be saying that Jesus draws everyone to Himself. It says nothing on the intensity of this drawing, but I never claimed God draws all people with the same intensity. As Acts 13:48 seems to me to be indicating, some people require less intensity in drawing them to Christ than others. Some will not respond no matter how intensely they are drawn. But the drawing is necessary in order for us to even be able to come to Jesus, and Marcus and I agree on that.

I agree that God opens the door, but no where does scripture say that we shut the door for ourselves.

There are many places where man frustrates the desire of God to have them come to Him. Acts 7:51 is one of the most blatant in the New Testament. Right there in Acts 13:46 is another. Paul himself attributes the shutting of the door to the individuals themselves (which is important to note when trying to ascertain what verse 48 is saying). Jesus also laments over Israel's unwillingness to respond to His desire for them in Matthew 22:37 and Luke 13:34. The Old Testament has many examples as well. Every time the Israelites turned from God, they were resisting His grace.

Out of the five translations I looked up, none of them translated it the way you suggested as a matter of fact the King James and World English translate it in such a way to convey the idea that those who believe were chosen beforehand.

I content that even in the English translations cited the verse need not be taken as an irresistible foreordained appointment. However, it shall be noted that many of the translators are Calvinists and may be reading an interpretation into the text. Maybe the tradition should be bucked (as I've heard it may be in the update to the NIV).

As a doctoral student who is studying Greek pointed out to me, the "BDAG (the most authoritative Greek lexicon) gives two definitions for τάσσω, the first of which is 'to bring about an order of things by arranging' and provides the glosses 'arrange, put in place'." This would be the rendering that the Arminian would support. The second definition from BDAG is order, fix, determine, appoint. This would be the Calvinistic rendering. It's interesting to note that the BDAG assigns Acts 13:48 the first meaning.

I need to correct what I said about middle voice in my previous response. I said it would make the passage read "those who were disposed to eternal life believed." However, this is actually the passive sense. The middle voice would make it read "to those who disposed themselves to eternal life believed."

If we consider the context given by verse 46, it would seem awkward that those who refused the gospel had thrust it away themselves, yet there was a fore-ordination of those who did accept the calling. It seems far more likely that those who were appointed were appointed because they were open, or disposed, to believing the gospel. Those who had shut the door missed this appointment.

The only other place I have heard the translation you suggest was from Steve Gregg in his debate with James White on the radio back in April 2008. Dr White ended that real quick. To be fair, you defended it much better than Mr. Gregg.

Most Calvinists are prepared to handle the middle voice argument (which was my mistake in mentioning), but the passive voice is far stronger. Considering that we have an authoritative lexicon assigning Acts 13:48 with the passive sense, I would be inclined to take its advice over a Calvinist polemicist who enjoys verbally pounding on his opponents. Plus, what do you do with verse 46 in the meantime?

I know you agree with the scriptures that say that we are unable to choose to follow Christ unless the Father draws us (Not all .people who call themselves Arminians say that, but all Calvinists do). If no one is seeking God and is going astray, then what happens that causes a man or woman to change?

God shows them His grace. God must free the person's will in order for them to make a conscious decision whether to accept His gift of grace or not. God the Holy Spirit acts upon the heart of a man when that man is exposed to the grace of God. Upon the hearing of the word, the Spirit of God calls the sinner to repent of his sins, draws the sinner to accept Christ, enables the sinner to accept Christ, and convicts the sinner of his or her sins and their need for Christ. After being enabled by the Spirit, the response of the sinner is passive. The sinner must stop resisting, repent of their sins, and place their faith in Christ. This gift, like any gift, is not irresistible. The sinner must accept the unmerited gift of God. Once this is done, following the plan of the Father, the Spirit joins the sinner to Jesus and thus begins the Savior's relationship with the sinner.

You have said you believe that God gives one enough faith to make a decision

I am one that says faith is not given by God. Faith is something we have in God. The ability to have faith is given by God. If you want to say faith is from God in that sense, that's fine with me, but faith is something we have in response to God's grace. Yes, I believe God gives all sufficient grace to exercise this faith.

What person in their right mind, who fully understands the Gospel, would be stupid enough to say "No."?

People who choose to say no to God. We're not really in our right minds until changed by God. Some people are darkened by their own volition and choose not to accept the light given to them.

Yet intelligent people do that. So you have to ask are those who say "Yes" smarter or better in some way?

Not necessarily. They simply choose to remain in their sins. Who knows all of the reasons but God?

There is nothing about me better than any unbeliever. Nothing!

Well actually, in Calvinism, there is. You're individually and unconditionally elected by God. You're de facto better than the non-elect from the outset of eternity.

So why do people choose to reject the very thing p- the only thing - that can save them?

They choose to do it. You're assuming something has to cause them to do this, but that's what those of us who hold to libertarian free will dispute; that something must cause us to choose what we do. We believe the will is truly free to do what it is able to do. When freed by God, you are completely unconstrained by anything in your choice. You must actually choose to accept God.

Marcus quotes Matthew 11:27, apparently thinking this supports his view. But this verse doesn't say Jesus only reveals the Father to a select group of individuals. No! The very next verse records Jesus as saying, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Jesus is calling everyone who is beaten down by the legalism of the day. This isn't limiting the scope of Christ's calling, it is widening it! Anyone who is weary of their sin can go to Him.

All believers - the church are predestined, but God knows which individuals are in that group.

Correct. However, foreknowledge does not equal fore-ordination. God knowing people who will enter into union with Christ does not mean He caused them to do so.

The thing is White said that God did not just predestion the group but the individuals in that group

That's what we disagree on. Predestining a group which individuals must meet certain conditions to join does not mean God has forgotten the individuals. In fact, the Arminian view says that God sincerely and honestly draws all individuals to Himself. He cares for every last person on earth. He wants us all to accept His forgiveness. But He wants this done freely, not by a pre-decreed, unalterable chain of determined events. As WLC points out, "God could produce certain chemical reactions in our brains that would issue in what we'd normally describe as loving behavior toward Him, but it would be a sham, a puppet-like response. To have a
genuine love relationship with us, God must put up with the possibility of rebellion."

Is the verse saying that he (The Father) chose Jesus before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight

No, it's saying that the Father chose us in Christ; believers as a result of choosing Christ. He chose Christ as the avenue of salvation from the foundation of the world, and in light of that those who are in Christ are chosen as a consequence of being united to Christ. It's like saying I chose a potato chip in light of having chosen the potato chip bag off of the shelf. As Robert Picrilli points out in his book Grace, Faith, and Free Will, "Christ Himself, first and foremost, was God's darling, His chosen One. Individuals are chosen in saving union with Christ" (65).

To construe the passage to be saying He chose us in order for us to be in Christ is adding to the passage.

Jesus was not chosen to be holy and blameless because Jesus always was, is, and will be holy and blameless.

You're correct. I was not saying that. I was saying that God chose that those in Christ would be holy and blameless. Those who believe in Jesus in response to the grace of God by their choice are predestined to be adopted by God and made holy and blameless.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ephesians 1 at Arminian Chronicles

A fellow Arminian blogger has just posted a great blog on Ephesians 1. He shows clearly that the passage is about the corporate election of those in Christ, aka the church, and not about an individual unconditional election. It can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Moral Argument Paralleling the External World

Those who have trouble accepting the objective reality of moral values and duties point to the fact that we can't be sure that these values are actually objective. They might just as easily be subjective from person to person. But for every argument that can be given to dispute the existence of objective moral values, a parallel argument against the external world can be given. Moral values seem to force themselves upon us. Our moral sense apprehends these moral realities, such as it is always wrong to torture a little baby and always right to protect that baby, whether we want it to or not. Likewise, we apprehend an external world through our senses of touch, smell, sight, etc whether we want to or not. It imposes itself on us. The person who wants to ask for justification for believing in objective morals should consider this parallel with the external world. Just as there is no test or experiment to get outside our physical senses and prove 100% that we aren't actually a brain in a vat or in the Matrix, likewise there is no test that we can perform to get outside our moral sense and see if the moral values and duties it apprehends are real. Moral values are self-evident, just as the external world is. We apprehend them through our senses and there is no reason to question the reliability of these senses. The belief in objective moral values is properly basic, just as the belief in the external world is properly basic.

I argue the presuppositions that one has to hold to deny the objective reality of the external world or of objective moral values and duties require more justification than do those of the one that accepts these realities. In order to question the reality of the external world, one has to assume that our senses are not reliable and the input we are receiving is potentially false. Likewise with objective morals, one has to assume that their moral sense isn't reliable. In the absence of defeaters for the acceptance of their reliability, there is no reason to think our physical or moral senses are faulty.

Are Roman Catholics Judaizers?

As of late, I have seen several comparisons of Roman Catholic theology (of which I don't adhere to as a system) with the Judaizers whom Paul spoke against in Galatians. As someone who is interested in ecumenical reconciliation among Christians, and in the interest of intellectual honesty and fairness, I'd like to clarify the issue. What were the Judaizers trying to do? They were attempting to reintroduce Jewish works of the law into Christian practice and saying they were necessary to attain salvation. Even Peter was taken in by this and separated himself from the Gentile Christians until confronted by Paul.

Now, is it right to equate this with Roman Catholic theology? I don't think so. The situation is completely different. Roman Catholics do not teach a works based salvation as the Judaizers were. Their doctrine is far more subtle than that. They believe that once justified, they are infused with Christ's righteousness and, by God's grace, they are able to do good works that are meritorious (I disagree with this. I think our works play no part in our justification. That work was completed on the cross. Our good works flow out of our full salvation--I have found many times that RC's and protestants talk past one another)(click here for more info). The Catholics have not reintroduced Jewish dogmas back into Christianity and do not insist that you must perform them in order to be saved.

In fact, recently many Catholics have expressed agreement with Luther's formulation of salvation by faith (click here).

In summary:

  • Judaizers were trying to make works the means of salvation.
  • Catholics do not make works the means of salvation.
  • Catholics are not Judaizers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Romans 5:6: Who are the Ungodly?

A single verse I think speaks volumes about the extent of Christ's atonement is Romans 5:6. Paul writes, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (NASB).Paul tells us here explicitly who Christ died for; the ungodly. Now, many Calvinists claim that Jesus only died for a select few on the cross. He only paid for the sins of the elect. But if this is the case, then Romans 5:6 would indicate that the non-elect aren't ungodly, since Christ died for the ungodly. Or it means, as the Arminian insists, that Christ really did die for the ungodly; namely all those who are at odds with God because of their sin, who Paul identifies as every individual on earth (Romans 3:23).

The only other alternative I could see the Calvinist presenting here is that Paul only means the ungodly among the elect, since Paul says "while we were still helpless." However, this is a tortured reading of this text and in no way follows. "We" clearly means humanity as a whole, but even if it means the specific people Paul is talking to, it doesn't alter the fact that he writes that "Christ died for the ungodly." So if we are to take "we" to mean the elect, it could still read "while [the elect] were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." The article "the" modifies the noun "ungodly" in a way that it causes it to mean ungodly people in general. There really is no other way to read this verse: Christ died for every individual since every individual is ungodly.