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.


Marcus McElhaney said...

Thanks, Brennon. Tag...you're it.

bethyada said...

Reasonable thoughts. I would like to make 2 comments on this post. First McElhaney's comment:

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).

My understanding is that all Arminians would say that (along with Calvinists) but not all non-Calvinists would say that. To call non-Calvinists Arminian is incorrect.

And your comment:

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.

I don't know if the term "better" is true according to the Calvinist. Better for the person, yes; but this is not better intrinsically.

Marcus McElhaney said...


I have heard many people deny human depravity and still call themselves Arminians. Do you know if Arminius accepted human depravity or not? I understand your point that not all non-Calvinists are Arminians. What basout them thast call themselves Arminians but deny human depravity and human inability to believe the Gospel without God's intervention?

bethyada said...

Do you know if Arminius accepted human depravity or not?

I believe he did, but the concept of total depravity has a slightly different slant, and I think there are better terms.

What basout them thast call themselves Arminians but deny human depravity and human inability to believe the Gospel without God's intervention?

You mean Pelagians (and semi-Pelagians) who are not Arminian, but are non-Calvinist.

Marcus McElhaney said...


Yes, I will totally agree that Pelagians and semi-pelagians are not Armininans, but I think you also have to admit that there are people calling themselves Arminians who do hold that you don't need grace to be saved. I thought real Pelagians would even even deny that Jesus' death was necessary for salvation.

Itt seems that you and Brennon share common views on this matter. What do you guys think about "Perseverance of the saints"? What I mean is if a person truly becomes born-again, can they loose their salvation?

SLW said...

Thought this might interest you.