Thursday, June 22, 2006

Regeneration

Maybe one of the reasons that modern Southern Baptists are so willing to jettison (at least practically) our historical conviction of a regenerate church membership is because we have grown soft on the whole idea of regeneration. One of the realities that we must face is that we can no longer assume that people in our churches understand what we mean by "salvation." That is even more of a concern when we start talking about the constituent elements of biblical salvation (like justification, sanctification or regeneration).

For that reason, I call your attention to an article I wrote some time ago on this subject.

Regeneration

When Jimmy Carter became President of the United States in 1976 I remember my Political Science professor at Texas A&M University talking about the confusion which his colleagues from the North were experiencing. Several of them called him on the phone to get help in understanding what the phrase, "born again," meant.

From the outset of his campaign Carter made it very clear that he was not ashamed to be known as a "born-again Christian." At that time this was a new thought to a lot of people in our land because they had not weighed or considered Christianity in terms of the idea of a new birth. Reporters and political analysts wanted to know what the language meant and what Mr. Carter was actually saying. (read more)

135 comments:

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

Tom,
It seems as though that we've moved beyond theological ignorance to theological antagonism. It is viewed as one of those mysterious "non-essentials" - even damaging to individual faith. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned imputation ONCE. I received "constructive criticsm" that I was being too deep. Sad, very sad.

GUNNY said...

Surely this comes as no shock to those who read Tom's words, but it's not merely the lack of knowledge of "regeneration," but also the lack of regeneration (among so many of SBC church rolls) that leads to sluggish progress of our mission to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in and through our local SBC churches.

scripturesearcher said...

Right on, Thomas! Oops! Dr. Tom!

Few, if any, scriptural doctrines are more MISunderstood than the new or spiritual birth.

May the many readers of your blog enter into this vital discussion with vim, vigor and vitality.

Unless all are away on vacation without their laptops, this should be one of the most informative pages you have ever posted.

I predict it will.

Mike Stone said...

Great post, especially in a day when many people think that salvation is praying a prayer, walking an aisle, and filling out a card. Though we say we believe it is more than that, our actions often speak to the contrary.

I say that because we give so much attention to those who have the most people raise a hand, come forward, and fill out the card...whether or not those so-called "converts" show any further signs of salvation.

revival now said...

Tom,
I have been reading your posts for sometime and I am very grateful for your site. God willing, I hope to meet you next year in San Antonio.

As to the subject of regeneration, it is such a needed message today. As an evangelist I am struck by the number of people who are more concerned for recording numbers than true conversions. I have been struggling for several years over this issue and the health of churches today. I can almost hear the words of Jesus, "You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are," (Mt. 23:15). How many people have been given false security and false hope because they raised their hand during a revival, or they repeated a prayer with the preacher. My soul shudders at the thought of what we are Southern Baptists have done and so many are continuing to do in the name of evangelism.

peter lumpkins said...

All,

Brothers, I must be living in complete oblivion. I must visit churches all over the NE & SE with my eyes completely closed. For the fact is, I've never once heard a Pastor--even in the most aggressive Church Growth setting--to so much as hint that "raising hands" "filling out this card" "repeating this prayer" ever saved anybody there. Just call me plain flat dumb, I guess.

Indeed, I attend--when I am in town--a very "pro" growth Church in West Georgia. No doubt in my mind, both this Pastor and the Church would be taken to the barn out back and beaten like a dog if he ever commented on this blog or you knew who he or his church was. I say that to say, T_____ represents every sterotype that this calvinistic community could imagine about him and all church growthers. Yet, as candidly and honestly as I can assess both him and the church, it really is rather hard to become a member there. There are several steps to membership including an intensive class ALL must go thru to join. Heck, I've got two seminary degrees and twenty plus years as a Senior Pastor and he won't even let me slide the blasted thing!

I say that to simply say this: there exist far too many sterotypes being employed to tar some good, godly, disciplined and growing SBC Churches. All growing churches are definitively not created equally. Gentlemen & Fellow Believers: it simply is not as bad out there as so many of you continue to suggest.

With that and grace to you, I am...

Peter

John said...

Dear Peter,

No one will say directly that just by signing a card or raising the hand you are saved. However, that's the clear implication they leave behind.

Last year we hosted a great group of from Alabama to do mission work up here in PA. They went door to door and I happily went with them. I loved them and got quite a shot in the arm from their zeal. But I saw the way they presented the gospel and their impatience to "close the deal". When their mission trip was over and they left, they left me a list of people they claimed were "saved." They didn't just say, "these prayed with us to receive Christ" or whatever. They emphatically pronounced these people "Saved". Now it was left up to me and a few faithful people with us to follow up these people confidently described as "saved". One young man on their list told me point-blank, "I'm not interested in that stuff". Not one of them so much as visited our church.

It's worse out there than we think. Not only are church rolls inflated with people who never were really Christians, some of those who actually attend are "wolves in sheeps clothing."

John said...

Have you all seen the pamphalet "Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member" by Jim Elliff?

Below is from his site (Christian Communicators Worldwide):

Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member
By Jim Elliff

The message for revival today is regeneration with discernible fruits. 18 pp.


"In our desperation to explain the difference between vibrant believers, and the rest of the persons on the rolls of our churches, we have developed a view of revival which our forebears did not have. We have shifted our aim in revival to bolstering the spirituality of the "carnal Christian" instead of challenging such people with their lost state. We have tended to see revival as an extended "deeper-life conference" bringing persons in the church to a happy and useful state; but our forebears said revival is principally the recovery and subsequent reigning of the gospel in all its converting power. To them revival preaching was not so much asking how Christians can be victorious in their lives, as it was asking, 'How can you live like this and call yourself a Christian at all?'"
From Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member

Mopheos said...

Brother Peter,

It would be a happy day for your words to be completely true: "it simply is not as bad out there as so many of you continue to suggest" and I suspect you are more right than wrong. And I would not think you are "plain flat dumb" either.

But in the town where I live, I hear regularly from my TV that if the viewer will pray the prayer suggested by the TV preacher - "from their heart to God's heart" - then God will save them and they will be born again. I have been in many a service where the call for every eye to be closed and every head bowed is made, and then the process is begun. If you want to give your heart to Christ, then..."look up at me" or "lift up your hand" or "stand to your feet" and then finally "come to the front" (altar, bench, etc.).

I have heard evangelists employ a variety of sentiments to coax people from their seats, and I have even heard one evangelist succeed in getting people to pray the prayer in their seats and then proceed to call those same people forward with the express intent of having them pray the prayer again with one of the crusade workers. The invitation was such a mass of confusion and emotional manipulation, I'm certain the gospel got lost in the fog. The association of any or all of these physical movements, or even the saying of a formulaic prayer, with the twin graces of repentance and faith, seriously detracts from the one essential thing - looking to, seeing, understanding and trusting Christ and Him crucified.

I have had to deal with the aftermath of this methodology, when grade-schoolers and teenagers are petrified they have not prayed the prayer sincerely enough, or long enough, or frequently enough. The next evangelist who comes along and exposes their sin easily reduces them to doubt and uncertainty - again - and implicitly begins to engender distrust in the actual power of the gospel to really, completely save them. This is a grievous misunderstanding of what (and who) actually saves, and how that salvation is effected - not to mention the nature of sanctification.

I have known (and tried to counsel) people who, in spite of evidence to the contrary, are unyielding in their insistence that one of the above mentioned methodologies was the instrumental means of their salvation (though they would never articulate it as such). I know many people who think that inviting non-Christians to change their geographical location in a building is the way that they will be saved. I am not being melodramatic here - I am speaking the truth. I have experienced the furor of people upset that an altar call was not given, even though the gospel was preached and people were exhorted to come to Christ.

I have known many people who will claim a position as a sheep under the Shepherd's care, but who will steadfastly refuse to hear the Shepherd's voice. The ground of their assurance most often cited by such people is their response to some form or combination of the above mentioned methodologies.

Now I do not believe that everyone who has walked an aisle, or raised a hand or whatever, is illegitimate - far be it from me to pretend to have such knowledge. But anyone who was, is and ever will be saved - whether during an invitation or something else - is saved by the foolishness of the message preached, plain and simple. A prayer never saved anyone - faith in Christ, faith in the message of the cross - that saves. If faith in a prayer becomes the focus, or faith in faith, then all confidence in the gospel crumbles.

So I hope and pray that my experiences and observations are the exception and not the rule...but the report is sometimes not all that encouraging.

Grace and peace...

peter lumpkins said...

John,

Thank you for very reflective insight. I do not at all defend the terminology that these jealous witnesses used. I myself have "slipped" and presented someone to the Church Body, happily pronouning them "saved" whether resulting from that particular morning's message or the prior week's personal gospel presentation in their home.

Of course, I did not "know" they were such but assumed that, upon the same basis I myself believed myself to be justified, they gave witness in a similar fashion. Thus I must confess myself guilty as charged here--possibly employing incorrect terminology.

However, there may be some Biblical precedent for using this. Luke does not at all refrain from pronouncing the 3000+ "saved" (though admittedly,he only records they were"added to them") at Pentecost. Consequently, they were immediately baptized; and that before ample evidences were forthcoming that they in fact were geniunely converted. Understand: I am not making a Biblical case here. Just thinking as I type :D

But here is the point I feel is being missed here: this constant charge that SBC churches are calling on people to "raise their hands", "pray this prayer" "sign your name" is at the very least, overstated and at worst, slanderous. In my present ministry, I visit dozens of churches regularly--even cross-denominationally-and I can state unambigously the problem is not as it is presented by so many commenters on this blog.

Sometimes I get the impression that it is just simply very easy to rally troups and state a perceived problem in phantom terms that carry weight--i.e."All the growth-oriented, pragmatism, practicing Churches bloated with the unregenerate"--but demand no empirical evidence. And, if empirical evidence is offered, it is in the form of anecdotalism. Thus, my brother John, I am simply willing to disagree with the analysis I find here, and leave it at that.

By the way, Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost at NOBTS, wrote an interesting anaylsis of the future of SBC agreeing in spirit--if not in content--with what you may be saying here. Dr. Ascol, I believe, did a 3-part rejoinder to him on this blog. Interestingly, Dr. Lemke turned his sights toward a study of 233 Founders-friendly churches, weighing them in the balances of Church health (at least his view of church health) and found them wanting. Has someone responded to his analysis of Founders-friendly churches? If you know of one, please leave me a link. I'd really like to follow up.

I hope you have a great evening and gracious night's sleep. With that, I am...

Peter

Mopheos said...

...and I should add, that my complaint is not against methods as such. Don't we all want to know that we have made the way of salvation plain and not obscure? Don't we all want men to see the terror and beauty of this Man who hung cursed upon a tree?

I still remember, at the ripe old age of 23, the first time that I understood, that I knew and felt in my soul, that this man Jesus was looking at me from high up on that cross, that He was knowingly hanging there for me, instead of me...maaan, how good was that? The object of my trust was clear - and I hadn't even prayed a "sinner's" prayer yet.

But I can tell you who I was looking at, and what the gospel was, and how, if I was ever to have any hope of heaven, it was in this man who died and rose again - for me.

I had no altar call, no "head bowed, eyes closed" command, no walking of the aisle. The world around sort of faded, and it was just me before this suffering and now living Lord.

That is, for sure, our desire for all who hear the gospel, and I don't want anyone to mistake the inestimable riches of the gospel for some misplaced confidence in their own abilities, no matter how pious or popular they are held by the majority.

[stepping down off soapbox now...]

Cap Pooser said...

I agree this is a needed subject to pursue . We have a great Salvation. The problem we face is in not being precise in our definitions. While at NOBTS I developed a little doodle where I described salvation as the big umbrella with several elements. For instance, we are told that we are chosen to salvation 2 Thes 2:13. We are told that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim 1:15. But he saved us by the washing of regeneration Titus 3:5. So election is unto salvation, redemption saves, and regeneration saves, not just one of them. Further , godly sorrow works repentance unto salvation 1 Cor 7 :10. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Acts16:31. Being justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him Rom. 5:9 We were chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit 2 Thes 2:13 we are kept through the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. But where most folks get messed up is when they say believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be born again or regenerated. Or repent and you will be born again both of which are unbiblical statements. Believe and you will be saved. Repent unto salvation but not unto the new birth. I have noticed on some of the entries on the web there is a tendency to equate salvation only with the new birth. But salvation is not just the work of the Holy Spirit. It includes the work of the Father in election and the Son in redemption and is evidenced by the works of grace in granting repentance, faith, justification , sanctification and glorification. If I could ever figure out how this net works, I could send anyone a copy of my doodles. It includes definitions from the Baptist catechisms along with the supporting scriptures. That is, if anyone might be interested.
Cap Pooser

John said...

Dear Peter,

Hi. You've struck on an important point: how to show objectively the true state of the church. One such way would be the percentage of members on a roll to the attendees. Jim Elliff gets at this in his excellent pamphalet, "Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member."

It should be self-evident that every truly regenerate Christian would be in attendance at a faithful church (where one is available). While I'm not willing to judge any professing person as "not saved" (except in some extreme circumstances), if someone is consistently not in attendance at a faithful church, he or she can be assumed to at least be living as if he/she was not saved. In addition, every church would most likely have consistent visitors, people who for various reasons attend but have not (yet) become members. So if every regenerate Christian is faithful in attendance and every church has some visitors and others on the periphery, then attendees should consistently out-number members. Remember, all the members (being regenerate) will be in faithful attendance and there will be a few non-members in attendance. Therefore, a church that has more members than attendees can be said to have a serious problem. A number of the people it is proclaiming to the world are "saved" (which is what we do when we confer membership), are not meeting one of the basic expectations of a Christian: the regular worship of God. When one takes into account the non-member attendees, the problem is worse. And yet, I've read from a number of sources that in the vast majority of Baptist churches today, names on a membership list far out numbers attendees. Often there are two or three times as many "resident members" than there are those in attendance. This is one objective barometer of the health of our churches and it is, so I'm led to believe, very disturbing.

peter lumpkins said...

Mopheos

And, as I did John, I thank you as well, Mopheos (I feel like I'm Neo, right now :). I very much appreciate your careful insights.

Nor would I dispute your characterization of so many so-called evangelists who get away with manipulative horrors. But my comments were directed toward the music I hear coming from the choir loft here. It rarely is about evangelists per se--and surely we all agree about so much cheap slop from the TV.

Rather, mopheos, the choir here sings laments about the local churches, the local pastors,etc of 43,000+. And, what I gain so many times is a sheer blanket indictment that I just don't see. I meet pastors of small churches, medium churches, large churches--both rural and city--and I find not perfect men but good men who love the Lord, love to preach, love to witness. These are who I see in my mind when I hear the richly judgmental melodies of this blog.

For I look at so many good men out there and realize just how much I lack in gifts, in passion, in perservance. Most of the SBC pastors with whom I am acquainted are honorable men--not perfect--but honorable and love Jesus and quite frankly, do the best they can given their circumstances. No doubt we have some monkeys. Which Evangelical Church doesn't? Indeed, I may just be one of them in some people's eyes (This's true: an elderly woman in my church said to me as I visited her in the Nursing Home: "If your're a preacher, I'm a monkey)!!

At least, that's my take on it, morpheos. With that, I trust our Lord to give you peaceful rest tonite. I am...

Peter

Tom said...

Peterfrank:

You have rightly pointed out that we need to be careful to avoid impugning men's motives when we talk about the realities of modern church life. I have no doubt that most SBC pastors love the Lord and are sincere men. But the fruit of modern evangelism that typifies SBC life cannot be denied. As has been pointed out, simply look at the statistics. Lemke's "analysis" was terribly flawed. Did you read not only my responses but my further analysis of some of the flagship SBC churches--using their reported ACP statistics? Furthermore, one NAMB (HMB) "expert in follow-up" declared that, in his experience, only 1 in 10 of those baptized in respected churches showed any signs of spiritual life a year later. That is slightly better than Page Patterson's observation that 3 out of 4 of the "conversions" counted by his "non-Calvinist" friends do not result in genuine disciples of our Lord.

I could go on, but this should suffice as an example of the kind of evidence that we are considering here when we lament the all-too-typically shallow evangelism that is practiced in our day. If this is not the case, as you suggest based on your experience, why is the fruit of most modern evangelism so rotten? Why are our churches overwhelmingly filled with unregenerate members? This is not an issue of a few false converts here and there--the inevitable Judas' among us. Most of our church rolls are dominated by unregenerate people. I think we get by with that because most of them simply go back into the world and don't bother churches much on a week by week basis. But let an important business meeting get scheduled and the bushes get beaten for all the inactive members to show up, and you get a little clearer picture of the actual state of the church.

I appreciate your optimism. But I am too much of a realist to share your positive assessment of modern SBC church life and evangelism.

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

Good morning. Please, my Brother. Tell me your secret. Indeed share your secret with all commenters here, for I am more than persuasded they too will immensely benefit. How is it remotely possible for a fallen, yet redeemed human being to write so clearly at 6:30am as you have done? You make me sin the horrid sin of envy, I assure you :D

Dr. Ascol, I am glad my optimism bled through. You got my point exactly right. And, of course, I would have been surprised had you not disagreed. I do want to assure you, however, that while I remain more optimistic about the larger pastoral/church family in the SBC than this present community, I do not at all feel I lack realism about it as you seem to imply in your closing words: "I appreciate your optimism. But I am too much of a realist to share your positive assessment of modern SBC church life and evangelism."

Remember, I admitted our share of monkeys. I even conceded I have at times been a monkey, acted like a monkey, ooo-oood,eee-eeed like a monkey, and etc. But I also trust I've learned from my monkiness. I will not concede I am--in the depths of my being--a monkey or that I consistently act like one, despite an occasional crave for a banana.

Enough of that. Here is my point, Dr. Ascol: at this juncture, evidently unlike the Founders faith community, I remain unprepared to pronounce the majority of SBs as unregenerate. And if you, Dr. Patterson and the experts are, well...O.K. You have my permission. (smile)

For me, how it is that anyone could literally know that 8-12 million SBs (the 8-12 is based on your "overwhelmingly filled") stands incredible. It fits nicely in the there-is-no-gold-in-Alaska type of scenario. How could it possibly be proved? And, for a calvinist community such as Founders who rightly and unapolegetically stand upon the Bible as sufficient, I am wondering what revelatory data suggests that the SBC is predominately unregenerate?

As a byline, I am curious why numbers seem to keep popping up in the discussion. For example, Dr. Ascol, you assume--even in a conservative scenario--that 8.5 million SBs are unregenerate by asking "Why are our churches overwhelmingly filled with unregenerate members? I guess you mean why are 1 of 2 in every SBC church a lost- hell-bound-under God's righteous wrath-pathetic God-hating-devil-worshipping -heathen?

I am unprepared to make that indictment, Dr. Ascol. And, if that is being overly optimistic, as with being a monkey at times, I plead guilty as charged.

Consequently, this ever-lasting focus on numbers possesses more lives than the proverbial cat. However, while I more than understand why those opposite the aisle from the Founders community keep bringing them up, what's extremely interesting to me is why Founders base so much of their criticism toward the SBC on numbers as well. It is as if one says "We are against numbers. Numbers are not important. But we need to fix the glitch so we can have better numbers because numbers are, after all, important." And this analysis is based on supposedly faulty numbers. Go figure.

That's precisely why just "fixing the numbers" is anything but a real solution . To me, it seems more like straining at a knat and swallowing a camel.

I must be off. Got a meeting to attend. May your day be filled with grace, Dr. Ascol. With that, I am...

Peter

Tom Bryant said...

This is a great and thoughtful discussion and I am thankful for that.

When I first came to this church, we had over 500 'members' of which, after a thorough search, we could only find about 200 who had been in the building - even for a special business meeting :) - anytime in the previous 5 years. So we began the difficult and controversial task of removing people who obviously were not a part anymore, if indeed they ever had been.

So I am in real agreement that there is a real problem of an unregenerate membership.

I have had in a previous church evangelists who come through use the 'raise your hands, come forward' approach. On the 2nd night of one crusade, I watched as his wife counted how many people came forward and then write it down in a notebook.

I am leading to a question, that may need to referred to another post...

How then would you suggest we deal with people who need to be saved? Do we lead them to say a prayer?

This is a real issue because I am afraid that the prayer/raise/come forward is simply innoculating people with the serum of salvation so that they never really get the real thing.

John said...

I heard a story about Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. One day an attendee at his church came up to him and told him he wanted to become a Christian. Supposed "the doctor" responded, "Good. Keep coming to church." And that was it.

Mark Dever has commented that someone once criticized his sermon for failing to "close the deal" at the end, because he doesn't have an altar call. He responded, "That's a deal I can't close."

I just saw a church ad seeking a pastor. He has to be able to "connect people to Jesus." The theological term for what they want is not "pastor" but "priest"!

My problem with the zealous group from Alabama that evangelized here was not the door-to-door, survey evangelism but the rushed attempt to "close the deal" at the end. Just share the gospel. Tell them they can pray and attend church. Perhaps pray for them right there. But don't try to be a priest, mediating something you can't, and then give them a hasty assurance.

Tom said...

Peterfrank:

Good questions. Let me take a stab at addressing them. As you well know, having been in Southern Baptist life, numbers are always touted as markers and identifiers of God's blessing. Just read the BP reports from the recent annual meeting. We love to say that we are "16.2 million strong." But, as Ed Young said at the Pastors' Conference, not even the FBI could find half of them. So in one sense, I refer to these oft-cited statistics simply to engage the issues on the grounds that have already been established: "If there are indeed 16.2 million Southern Baptsists, where are they?" I am simply pressing for honesty and integrity in the numbers that are most commonly cited (this applies to individual churches, as well, but I am limiting my comments to the SBC as a whole).

A second *possible* reason that you and I see these things differently may stem from our understanding of what a Christian is, or more specifically, how a Christian will live. I am operating on the basis that if a person is born again he will show signs of that--not in perfection, mind you, but in intention and direction. Matthew 7:21-23, John 10:27, 1 John 1:8, 2:3-5, etc. frame my thinking here. Where there is life, there will be signs of life. Given the ease with which Christians in our country may gather, I cannot help but have serious doubts about one who has made a profession of faith yet who refuses to gather regularly with God's people for corporate worship (I am not refering to the exceptional cases of those who are providentially hindered from doing so). That, in my mind, is a minimum. So when the norm is for the "products" of our evangelism to refuse even to join with brothers and sisters for worship on a regular basis, I cannot help but conclude that something is severely wrong. 1 John 2:19 supplies at least a significant analysis of what is wrong.

Yes, there were false believers in the NT churches. But they were the exceptions, not the rule. Yet, based on my minimalist standard of mere attendance, they seem to be the rule in our churches today. This send alarms off in my mind about what we are doing. If our converts do not tend to reflect the character of the converts we see in the Bible, then are they being converted to the same Jesus that is revealed in the Bible. My fear is that, in many cases, they are not. Thus my cry for reformation and revival.

Tom said...

Tom:

Great question. I just got back a little while ago from meeting with a friend who is, I believe, under conviction. Another brother, who has been witnessing to him for awhile, and I had breakfast with him. Where I spent a great deal of time was pressing on him the urgency of trusting Christ immediately. He seemed to have settled into an attitude of "when I get my act together" and "I know this is going to take a long time." I explained to him that it did not have to take a long time and in fact, he had no guarantee of any more time. I pressed him to come to Christ "right now" in the restaurant. I did it by explaining to him that, although there is still much he needs to learn, if he knows that he is a sinner, under the wrath of God and that Jesus is the only Savior who can rescue him, then he knows enough to be saved. I encouraged him to ask God to be merciful to him, to let the seriousness of his situation lead him to plead with God to save him. I suggested to him what he might say to God while telling him that there are no magic words but that, rather, God is concerned with his heart. I encouraged him to commit himself to Jesus Christ as Lord then and there. He did not visibly or audibly pray and I did not lead him in a prayer (though I have prayed with people in similar situations, asking the Lord to save them, to grant them faith, and then encouraging them to pray out loud when I finished). I think he got some of the sense our urgency because he said, "You mean if I leave here and get in a car accident and die, I will go to hell if I am not saved?" To which Don and I replied very soberly, "Yes."

I want to help people as much as I can in leading them to Christ. I do so knowing that it is not a technique that saves nor is it a formula of words, it is Christ. Spurgeon on occasion gave what we might call "sample prayers" at the end of his sermons, suggesting that this is how a seeker should pray. I have done that as well while avoiding any stereotypical "sinner's prayer" (though I have referred to the prayer in Luke 18:13 by that name, and encouraged people to pray it!).

Again, I think you have asked an important question. In our effort to avoid quick and easy decisions and to engage in evangelism with integrity (which necessarily includes more teaching of the Gospel), we must not lose sight of nor let those to whom we witness lose sight of the urgency of their condition. We must press them to come to Christ immediately because that is inherent in the call of the Gospel.

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

I just came back to my motel room after a meeting. I am packing my bags--in my mind, of course--while I write a few words and head quickly out the door in time to spend a wonderful late dinner with my Hunny at home. Thus, I can only write a few lines.

First, the blogging and comments to which I responded where comments about the SBC as a whole, true. Yet, the whole is indeed the 16m + 43,000 churches which, by sheer deduction of your argument, means that 8-12m in general and most of the churches in particular are judged massively unregenerate. I cannot, for myself, Dr. Ascol, make that pronouncement--even tongue in cheek as did Ed Young.

Second, I do not at all disagree with what my understanding of your understanding of living the Christian life means--at least, as a whole. I believe the same frame work as do you as you cite the particular passages of Scripture.

What I do have deep reservations about is, however, precisely how those particular passages are relevant to tracking one's church attendance and deeming those who do not meet the quota one arbitrarily sets up as unregenerate and unredeemed. I, for one who has not the least reservation about exercising Church Discipline, am unwilling to make that judgment.

This entire dialogue is necessary, I am convinced. And, know I am very much open to be corrected if my views are unwarranted--both empirically and/or Biblically. But it must move beyond simplistically crossing t's and dotting i's if it ever becomes productive. That is, since the tenor of the discussion here about Church Discipline centers on counting numbers, that in itself may prohibit serious dialogue on what our Lord would dub the "weightier matters of the Law." Nor can I even imagine the Inspired Apostle to exchange the rightful "handing over to satan" of the dispicable incester at Corinth and proceed to make a chart tracking how many of the Corinthians missed Church last week.

Again, Dr. Ascol, it very interesting to me that, in the end, both the Founders community and those across the aisle from them inevitably appear to anchor down on numbers. While those across the aisle speak of how many attended today, Founders wonder how many times they have attended.

Is this a cause for celebration? Founders and non-Founders are kissing cousins after all! :D In the end, a focus like this is bound to be rightly doomed by our Sovereign. For it ultimately deduces to sheer, cold spiritual mechanicalism which, as surely we both agree, was our Lord's worst nightmare.

I am headed back from a hot, Coastal Mississippi sun to a hot, non-coastal Georgia sun. I can't wait. Have a Spirit-anointed day. With that, I am...

Peter

Doug said...

I think there is a little communication problem going on here. Tom says, "Our churches are filled with unregenerate people." Peter says, "I visit a lot of churches and the people I meet there are regenerate."

What Tom really means is, "The people on our church membership rolls that never show up are unregenerate and, therefore, DON'T fill the church." And Peter would probably agree with that statement.

Christopher Redman said...

I few posts ago I lamented Dr. Patterson's statement "I see no evidence in the Bible for irresistable grace." Granted, I am overzealous and often tempted toward sin in indicting Dr. Patterson's motives. I will not repeat that sin again here.

However, both the Baptist Faith and Message and the Abstract of Principles affirm regeneration to preceed justification (by faith), sanctification, and glorification. The ordering of the words is vitally important and mirrors Paul's words in Romans 8:30.

This principle (wonderfully explained in Tom's post) is the doctrine of irresistable grace. (Call it effectual calling if you wish. The choice of words by our Calvinist forebears is only important for those who wish to wrangle with terms and not deal with the substance of the doctrine and the Scripture).

The power of God to save sinners is in the power of the gospel itself. Therefore, accurately communicating the gospel truth (content) is paramount less it's power be lost and the hearers respond to an inaccurate gospel message. An inaccurate message leads in many cases to an innacurate response. Those who are truly saved through this inaccurate message are only saved by God's grace inspite of the errors in the message. However, the lamentable results are that many professions of faith are simply man made professions and not God wrought "new birth". The consequence being that they are lured into a false sense of security and much more difficult to reach with the gospel truth in the future.

My point is this - At what time does "making a decision" become a works based salvation experience? The answer is when the "decision" is acted upon as the means of obtaining salvation apart from the work of God's grace in granting the decision. It's a fine line but one that must be carefully considered. This is the point of failure with many modern gospel invitations, the focus is on the "decision" and not on the power of God to save in spite of the sinners deep state of depravity. Couple this with the absence of preaching the fear of God and we have a recipe for disaster. (Much like Charles Finney concocted in his days)

Irresistable Grace is the power of God to save hopelessly depraved sinners! His grace and power in salvation is manifest by the work of regeneration whereby God moves in a special and particular way so that the sinner being dead in trespasses and sins, ignorant of the true state of his peril, ignorant of the Holy and Just wrath of God, and blinded to the beauty and sufficiency of Christ is "made to see" the truth about God, his state of sin, and the sufficiency of Christ. In seeing, He comes most willingly in repentance and faith.

This is regeneration, it is the doctrine of irresistable grace.

Shall we consider Jesus' words? John 3:3 "Truly I say to you, unless a man is born again (regeneration), he cannot see the kingdom of God."

This "seeing the kingdom of God" is not his future state in glory but rather it is the kingdom of God's as it is NOW! God's sovereign rule over His creation, man's sinful rebellion and treason against his maker, and Christ's atonement for and on behalf of sinners who repent and call upon Him for salvation.

Apart from being born again, man is completly blind and dead to this reality.

CR

scripturesearcher said...

Just as was predicted in my previous post REGENERATION aka the new or spiritual birth is one of the most MISunderstood doctrines of the Bible.

Please, dear Lord, let the dialogue continue!

And remind us hourly, dear Heavenly Father, as the brothers offer their comments that your Scriptures are the basis of all we Christians believe.

Christopher Redman said...

I would make one comment to Peterfrank's statements -

1) We all believe that most all pastors are sincere, love the Lord, and try to do the right thing. However, their lack of understanding the doctrines of salvation (ie: the doctrines of grace) lead them into areas that are not practically or theologically consistent with the Bible.

2) None of us are judging the state of another's soul but rather are stating that a saved person will bear the fruit of a saved person. Directly violated the clear commands of scripture to associate with fellow believers is a serious issue that leads to many sins: not growing in Christ, not fellowshiping, not giving, not witnessing, not supporting missions, etc.

Granted, we are stating that many who hold membership in SBC churches do not bear any basic fruit of salvation, not here or there but for years and years, decades and decades!

3) We are not suggesting that pastors and churches should count their numbers weekly and discipline those who miss church here and there but rather that the pastors and churches should count their sheep. Even Jesus counted sheep! (Remember the 99 and 1)

4) We are calling on pastors and churches to manage their church roles and membership by "knowing" their people and their apparent spiritual state. Even the Bible says that church leaders in authority will give an account of the souls entrusted to their care. (Heb 13)

5) We are absolutely suggesting that churches who are unwilling to investigate their church membership role and make a judgment based upon scripture and sound reason as to whether some name inserted 5, 10, or 20 years ago but has been lost and missing since then should remain there and be tabulated in their "membership".

6) Finally, we insist that if pastors and churches did this much needed work of responsibly shepherding their flock, our SBC churches would shave millions of names off our roles.

Forgive me for using the term "our", "us", and "we". I don't intend to speak for Tom or all founders.

CR

Greg B said...

Man, I hope Volfan007 is monitoring this discussion. Peter, I commend you for the manner in which you engage. You provoke w/o antogonizing. You lead, or quickly follow with what seems from here to be heartfelt humility. Something I frequently am missing.
I think why many "founders folk" get on our ear about numbers, is because we see them inflating our pride. Strike one. Then we see frequently being wrong (not because we say one should be in church 26 Sundays a year, and they came 23, but because as Ed Young said (not really tongue in cheek) we don't know where a huge number of our members are or what there spiritual state is. Not are they just not attending as much as we would like, but they simply have no real desire to attend but on Christmas, Easter,or Mother's Day (or the business meeting that seeks to change the way things have always been done). You are fortunate indeed to have not seen much of this.
My answer would not be to arbitrarily cleanse the roll, but for the church to find these folks-preferably a visit from a church leader- and ascertain their reason for non-attendance and find out about their spiritual health. Those that cannot be contacted or refuse contact should be removed. Those that are members elsewhere, ditto. Those that are attending elsewhere should be asked to join that body or return depending on their story. The reason for our false pride is really a shallow evangelism and discipleship.
Much of this does come from not understanding regeneration as Paul explains it, as Jesus explains it. Even a great man of our convention who taught me about the need to practice CD and clean up reporting, doesn't seem to get it. He told a friend of mine that even though he (the friend)had been converted and remarried after a divorce, the Great Man couldn't reccommend him for a pastorate because he had been divorced. Conversion was good enough to wipe Saul's murders and persecution clean, but not enough for a modern pastors past divorce.
Not sure I reall engaged you, and I am sure you will not see this for a day or two. Hope you have a safe trip home, and a great time with you "hunny."
Greg B

fred said...

Peter,

You responded to Dr. Ascol with these words, "I guess you mean why are 1 of 2 in every SBC church a lost- hell-bound-under God's righteous wrath-pathetic God-hating-devil-worshipping -heathen?"

"pathetic God-hating-devil-worshipping"?

I am a member of a church that has about 400 people on its church roll. Until about four years ago it was 1100 (we only have seating for 450). You are thinking problem solved right? Not so fast. Of the now 400 members on the roll, we have about 100-150 who will attend our Sunday morning worship service, plus about 50 children in what is called kidz zone. Our Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer meeting is only attended by about 15-25.

Where is everyone at? Worshipping the devil and hating God? No! They our worshipping the self.

The praise and worship of our great God and Savior, the study of His holy word, and the joining together in prayer, just does not attract the majority of our modern day Southern Baptists.

25 people of 400 for Wednesday? = (6.25%)

God help us! Brothers please pray for us!

Greg B said...

Doug, you maybe onto something.
Greg

Christopher Redman said...

Also, Peterfrank -

We (there I go again) insist that the primary reason that the SBC is in this condition (ie: bloated roles and unregenerate members) is because of incorrect preaching, doctrine, and practical application within our churches beginning approximately 85 years ago.

The systemic root of the problem has been our rejection of the doctrines of grace by the majority of our denominational leaders since around the 1920's.

Hence, this thread on "regeneration" which is Biblically true but controversial and rejected by many within the SBC today. (See Page Patterson's comments on Irresistable Grace in the recent discussion on election.)

CR

Greg B said...

Fred,
Unfortunately, most churches I am used to, even those that seem to be growing and using the great programs may have lesser symptoms, but the same disease.
I will pray for you all.
Greg

Tom said...

Peter:

I hope you don't read this until after your late dinner with your wife, but while I have a few minutes I wanted to respond to you. Doug may be right about us talking past one another, although I would concede Dr. Patterson's point that even a huge percentage of those who attend on Sunday morning in our Southern Baptist churches may not be (he says that he assumes that they definitely are not) born again.

However, to be even more charitable than that and simply to make the point in what seems to me to be much starker relief, I have focused in this discussion on the non-attenders. By that I do not mean to focus on "how many times they attend" but on the fact that they *never* attend. This hardly seems to rise to the level of an "arbitrary quota." Am I understanding you correctly to say that you are unwilling judge as unregenerate that person who made a profession of faith and then never attends church or participates in any meaningful way with fellow church members? How would you apply 1 John 2:3-5 to them?

All of this is considerably different than your portrayal that we Founders types are focusing on numbers in ways similar to those whom we criticize for basing judgments of success on mere numbers. We are hardly kissing cousins!

All I am trying to do is suggest that the Word of God indicates that saved people will act like it. If someone consistently lives like an unconverted person and refuses to follow Christ in even the most basic and simple ways, then that person should not be welcomed as a member in good standing of a Bible believing church--especially a church with Baptist convictions. Yet, our church rolls are filled with such people.

As far as church membership goes I do believe that we must be precise. You write: "Nor can I even imagine the Inspired Apostle to exchange the rightful "handing over to satan" of the dispicable incester at Corinth and proceed to make a chart tracking how many of the Corinthians missed Church last week." Can you imagine him having a list of church members who belong to the Corinthian church? Do you think such a list existed? I am convinced it did for at least two reasons. First, such lists within churches were kept (1 Timothy 5:9) and there has to be a definite, definable, knowable number in order to determine a "majority" (2 Corinthians 2:6). Furthermore, Hebrews 13:17 teaches that pastors will one day give an account for those under their charge.

All of this leads me to believe that you and I are not thinking along the same lines about these things. It is more than of passing interest that on this issue, I am in agreement with folks who would radically disagree with me on the doctrines of grace. Whenever you get Ergun Caner, Ed Young, Paige Patterson Danny Aiken and Tom Ascol agreeing on something, it is worth noting and taking a closer look. As I have said before, this is not a Calvinism issue. It is a Christian issue.

Christopher Redman said...

I have had another thought for Peterfrank's comments regarding healthy churches.

Peter states that he travels to many, many churches and has experienced wonderful services and met wonderful Christians, and wonderful pastorst and so forth.

However, I do not think that Peter, as a visitor, is privy to the true state of biblical health of the church he is visiting. Many or most churches have good services, good music, sincere prayers, perhapst quality preaching, etc. However, the picture of the church on Sunday morning does not portray whether that church is spiritually and biblically healthy.

Again, the contention is the "membership roles". How many total members does the church have? Based on this, what is the overall health of the church?

Attendance, fellowship, worship, Bible study, giving, growing, evangeizing, missions, etc.

A truly healthy church will not have a large disparity between their average morning worship and their church roles. A truly healthy church will have a doctrinal confession/conviction that is biblical and grounds their theology and affects their practical ministry.

Additionally, the evidence of spiritual growth will be noteworthy at all levels of ministry.

Since Peter has the time, I would suggest he form a survey to share with pastors that he meets. In the survey, he should ascertain some questions that will give insight as to the churches true spiritual health. 9 marks (Mark Dever) might be a good place to get ideas for what constitutes a healthy church.

CR

SavedandSure said...

Let's clear the air and cut the chase by agreeing that.....

.....while all humans are creatures of God only the regenerate (aka those who have experienced God's new or spiritual birth) are the children of God.....

.....And all the children of God, having His divine nature, love all God loves and hate all God hates.

NOW we (you and I) either agree or disagree, and our answer indicates whether or not we have been born again and truly belong to the twice born family of God.

Psalm 97:10
I John (all five chapters)

John said...

Peter asked for objective criteria to measure the health of the church. I think the disparity between the numbers on the rolls and those actually in faithful attendance to the worship of God is just such an objective criteria.

However, that doesn't mean that everyone in regular attendance at church is regenerate. I am intimidately aware of one (non SBC) Baptist church which had about 90 people on the rolls and about 30 in attendance on Sunday morning. (A couple of people on the rolls lived 1,000 miles away!) Even several of the church's trustees did not regularly attend worship on Sunday morning. Only about 5 attended the Wednesday night prayer meeting. When there were controversial business meetings, suddenly there'd be about 30 people showed up on Wednesday nights. And the pastor pointed out the obvious: if you can come to church on Wednesday evening for a business meeting, you can come for prayer. Next Wednesday it was back to the usual 5. The pastor sought to follow the church's constitution and remove names from the rolls as the members were absent for at least six months. Eventually, when even the part-time associate pastor (who grew up in that church), got irritated for being told he needed to start coming to church (and work!) on time and bring his family, he quit in a huff and instigated his father, the chairman of the trustees to lead the ouster of the pastor (who had in his first calendar year in that church given more money into the church's treasury that he got out of it). The chairman of the trustees slandered the pastor to instigate people against the pastor, even to the extent of lying under oath (in a court case that resulted). Now, besides the four families that left (as the church was starting to grow and accept new members), are any of them regenerate? I mean those who actually come on Sunday mornings? Are any of those that drove out the pastor really saved? That's the real world.

revival now said...

Wow, you guys are good. I'm finding it hard to keep up - but I am grateful for the discussion.

John, I think anyone who has been in the ministry very long could relate a simular story. I served five churches as pastor - three of the five had either asked the previous pastor to leave or forced him out. One pastor left because he saw what was coming. The first church I served had been without a shepherd for three years,they were desperate so I got the call. :-D

Our's was a ministry of rebuilding and restoring which God blessed in so many ways. We saw many church members come to salvation - some after believing they were saved for years. We led one church to return to the fellowship their founders had split from (thirty years before)seeking forgiveness - and finding great release. To see God move in such ways is an awesome experience.

There were, however difficulties and trials as well. We left one church with people making physical threats against our seven year old son in school. Standing against the enemy comes at a high price - and that's what you do when you confront an unregenerate church membership. Not all in our churches are lost (praise God), but not all are saved either.

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

Hi revival now,

So how do you get an unregenerate church member to see that he or she may not be saved?

I've found that probably the most offensive thing that you can tell a questionable church member is what Paul told the Corinthians near the end of 2 Corinthians: "Test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Don't you know that Christ is within you, unless you fail the test." Imagine, Paul spent a lot of time with Corinth. This was probably his fourth letter to them. And near the end of it he suggests, 'You know, you guys might not be saved at all!' Of course, he does not judge their salvation. That's why I don't believe in doing that. But he tells them they need to examine themselves. He actually encourages them not to be so self-confident. No easy, hastily given assurance. That kind of question will make some of our wolves-in-sheeps'-clothing turn rabid fast.

www.covenantdubois.com

Mopheos said...

Brethren,

One of the problems of our own making (in connection with this regenerate church member problem) is that we (pastors, teachers, evangelists, denominational leaders) have told church people for decades that good Christians "attend church" regularly, and to give weight to such an assertion, Hebrews 10:25 is dutifully trotted out as proof that we better be "attending church" each Sunday (or every time the doors are opened). Never mind that Hebrews isn't even remotely interested in how often people "attend church" - with teaching like that, it's no wonder our people don't understand the Bible any better than they do.

When the importance of one's attendance quietly but surely outstrips such things as genuine God-enjoying, time indifferent worship, or genuine (and demonstrable) transformation of heart, we simply encourage nothing more than a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) mercenary approach to life in the kingdom.

Perhaps it is overstating the case to put it in such terms, but the most frequent question I still get from people asking about our fellowship is...ta daaa, you guessed it; "So how many members do you all have" or "How many people are attending your church?" If I answer that I'm not certain, I get that incredulous "you can't be serious" look.

"Going to church" as a barometer of faithfulness has been deeply ingrained in the minds of many, many Christians today, but the truth is, "going to church" is not New Testament phrasing, nor is it truly descriptive of New Testament practice.

I think Peter (the apostle, that is :-) gives a better, and certainly much more sober, barometer of faithfulness for those who belong to the household of faith: "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure..." 2 Peter 1:10, which is preceded by nine profound verses that really are descriptive of (and prescriptive for) regenerate church members. If the description of a church member was traced more often along these lines, maybe the unexamined comfort so many feel in the pew today would be replaced with the sentiments of Acts 5:11 & 13: "So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things...Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly." I need more of that fear, and I think our churches do to...

GeneMBridges said...

I think there is a little communication problem going on here. Tom says, "Our churches are filled with unregenerate people." Peter says, "I visit a lot of churches and the people I meet there are regenerate."

What Tom really means is, "The people on our church membership rolls that never show up are unregenerate and, therefore, DON'T fill the church." And Peter would probably agree with that statement.


Bingo! Brother Peter, you speak of the people you see, not those you are not seeing. This is your own yardstick. The question here is about those you are NOT seeing, not those you ARE seeing. We agree, those you are seeing are persons to whom we give more charity and have more optimism.

When numbers are mentioned around here, it has been by way of internal critique of the logic of those offering them to us as a measure of their success. This is a standard apologetic maneuver, and that is what those of us who have commented on this issue have offered. The numbers, namely baptisms and increasing memberships are always being touted as markers of "success," but what is not mentioned is the recidivism rate. For example, earlier, Dr. Lemke's thesis was mentioned. I've done statistical analysis in public health in my day, and one of my biggest criticisms of his thesis (which I posted to him here and on a couple of others forums) was the fact that he did not discuss recidivism rates in his comparison. He also made an invalid comparison. He compared the 233 Founders churches with the entire SBC. That's a HUGE no-no. It is more appropriate to compare two cohorts that are as comparable as possible in number, size, etc., controlling for the particular variable(s) for which you are measuring. The SBC as a whole vs. 233 Founders churches is simply an invidious comparison.

One of the problems of our own making (in connection with this regenerate church member problem) is that we (pastors, teachers, evangelists, denominational leaders) have told church people for decades that good Christians "attend church" regularly, and to give weight to such an assertion, Hebrews 10:25 is dutifully trotted out as proof that we better be "attending church" each Sunday (or every time the doors are opened). Never mind that Hebrews isn't even remotely interested in how often people "attend church" - with teaching like that, it's no wonder our people don't understand the Bible any better than they do.

Well, to be blunt, Brother Morpheos, you can expect that the Covenant Theologians in here will descend on this, as CT folks tend toward Sabbatarianism as it is. In short, non-attendance, on this view, is indexed to a violation of the Decalogue, which is, under the very texts which obtain to church discipline we cite, a piece of exculpatory evidence when testing our calling and election.

Cf: http://www.vor.org/truth/1689/
1689bc22.html

I'll get out of the way and on with my vacation now.

scripturesearcher said...

This is an informative page and the subject matter is of vital importance!


Informative - it is always the case when the North Carolinian named Gene Bridges enters the dialogue.

And to think he temporarily returned from his PAID
vacation to participate!

I guess Dr. Tom Ascol had to
use his powers of persuasion
to get Gene back into the game (oops! discussion)....


Now regarding who is (and who is not) regenerate or born again, let me kindly encourage the family of God to participate in the open forum.

Don't just sit there - write something based purely upon the Word of God.

Mopheos said...

Gene,

I thought of this after I posted last night. I hope no one will conclude I am against attendance at worship - and regular attendance at that! I just wanted to point out how the whole idea of attendance, as a thing unto itself, has significantly defined what many consider to be faithfulness as a Christian. Mere attendance does not even begin to describe the intention of heaven, whether you are Sabbatarian or not.

John said...

Hi Mopheos and all,

I don't think anyone has been saying that "mere" attendance is a virtue in and of itself. First someone (Peter I think) mentioned an objective criteria for measuring the health of our churches. I believe that the disparity between the large number of "members" on a roll and the relatively small number of members in attendance is just such an objective criteria. But then I noted that even that leads to an overly optimistic appraisal of the health of the church because there can be people in faithful attendance who are not regenerate. Human beings, as the sociologist Mircea Eliade described them, "homo religious" (sp?). People are inherently religious and in a largely "Christian" environment some people will express their religoius impulse by faithfully going to church, even though they've never been born again. (I then related a story about a church in which there may not even be one truly regenerate person left.) If they happen to be a doctor or lawyer or successful business man, they'll soon to be asked to be a deacon (or elder). If they happen to be an young person looking for a job, they coul even go to seminary and become a pastor.

Now, how do we challenge people who attend church but are probably not regenerate to examine themselves to "see if they are in the faith"?

revival now said...

Hi John (and all),

You asked, "So how do you get an unregenerate church member to see that he or she may not be saved?"

To tell you the truth - I don't. It may sould overly simplistic (and I don't mean it that way), but I just focus on preaching the Word. God has always don't the "getting" in the most interesting of ways. One particular fellow had been a member of the church for fifty years - one of the best guys around. Kind and considerate, always faithful in giving, attendance - even sharing with the pastor's family when he butchered a hog or bull (always a blessing!).

After a meeting one night (he was sharing with the church later) God was using something I had said to burden his heart and mind. He began to "examine himself" in the light of scripture and about one a.m. grace fell upon him (I still get tearie when I think on this friend) and he was gloriously saved.

There are other stories I could tell, but most all of these events too place away from the church building and services. They were mostly at home, alone with God and only coming before the church when they knew God has saved them.

I plead with men (and women) to know Christ (2 Cor. 5:11), but the "gettin" is up to the Lord. But I'm sure you knew that :-)

Christopher Redman said...

A professor I had one time asked a question to the class, "Which comes first, regeneration or faith and repentance?"

I answered immediately, "Regeneration." He said, "So you are saying that a person is saved apart from faith?"

I replied, "Where does faith come from?"

He paused and did not continue with the question. However, he was intended to stump the class because he knew that whatever answer the class gave, he would come back with a challenge that would probably stump them. It's just good fun and challenging to one's faith and convictions to know what you believe and why.

I later became more convinced of regeneration preceeding faith and repentance when I came to study Titus 3:5-7, especially verse 7 "having been justified by His grace, we have become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

I later spoke to the same professor again and shared this text. I stated that justification is by grace through faith. In other words, where there is saving faith, there is also saving grace. Where there is saving grace, there is saving faith. It's not either or, it's both.

So, regeneration is the sovereign grace aspect of salvation and saving faith is the outflow of this grace.

CR

Christopher Redman said...

Peterfrank said -

"Yet, as candidly and honestly as I can assess both him and the church, it really is rather hard to become a member there. There are several steps to membership including an intensive class ALL must go thru to join. Heck, I've got two seminary degrees and twenty plus years as a Senior Pastor and he won't even let me slide the blasted thing!"


I say -

I think that required new member classes are a good thing. I am doing it in my church. Many churches are now doing this today.

I have some thoughts and comments on the subject of new member classes -

1) Rick Warren really got the new member class requirement ball rolling and made it popular.

2) Many calvinist and non-calvinist are now using the new members class to strengthen the criteria for membership. (This is a practical attempt to correct a long standing problem of open altar call membership)

3) The need for this class and the enhanced membership requirements is because of decades and decades of the altar call approach to membership. This has caused the bloated roles and apparent unregenerate membership that we are lamenting on this thread. This class is a method of trying to correct decades of problems.

4) Theologically, however, arminian pastors have sought to correct the problem of unregenerate membership through a process or class without examining the fruit or accuracy of their theology which led to the problem in the first place.

In other words, both the practice of how we recieve new members and the theology of the church need to be overhauled and examined.

A program/class alone will not get the job done totally. It may improve things for a time but eventually the faulty theology will produce faulty fruit again. It's just a matter of time.

CR

Mopheos said...

True, no one said that mere attendance is a virtue in and of itself, and there are other practices I might have mentioned that have virtually taken on the status of a sacrament which functions ex opere operato in many baptist minds, but I didn't want to be greedy with blog space :+).

But my intent is certainly not to disparage nor mock such things, but just to point out in a few practical terms, how our ecclesiastical culture actually encourages (to varying degrees) the issue we are currently struggling with and discussing.

The elders in our fellowship have worked hard to transform our peoples minds from the idea that we "go to church" (or attend, etc.) to the biblical reality that we "are" the church. The implications for such a shift are profound and far-reaching, particularly in connection to this whole issue of a regenerate church.

The blogs have been excellent and I appreciate the tenor and content of them all. You all are an edifying group. Gracias.

Timotheos

John said...

Revival now, I think that's an excellent answer: preach the Word and let God shepherd His church. He will gather His sheep to Himself. But your example was of a "nice" person saved. What of the wolves, the goats, and the dogs? (Peter mentioned monkeys!) When we replace a simplistic "once-saved-always-saved" (based on a prayer after a manipulative altar call) with a Biblical preservation of the saints (based on the imputation of Christ's righteousness), and thereby undermine the false security of some of those interesting critters, they will start to howl.

CR, I think the best text for regeneration preceding faith is 1 John 5:1. The ESV is the only version I know that translates it correctly. It literally says something like, "Everyone who has been regenerate believes." There is a past perfect verb there not reflected in the KJV or NIV, etc.

Mopheos, it's true that most importantly we "are" the church. As even some church signs say: "Such-and-such church meets here." The Puritans understood that, which is why they called their buildings "meeting houses" instead of "churches." I wish the KJV had not departed from the Tyndale and the Geneva Bible and translated "ekklesia" as "church." (King James insisted on that because he wanted it to appear the Bible tacitly approved of his state "church.") It should properly be "assembly." As an exercise, every time you read the word "church" in the Bible, replace it with the word "assembly." That understanding alone might have prevented the rise of dispensationalism. If we see that the "church" is really the "assembly", then we'll understand both that it is not a building we go to, as you so rightly point out, and also that it is absurd to claim we're members of the "assembly" if we never assemble!

www.covenantdubois.com

Andrew said...

I feel like a student with my ear to the wall, eavesdropping on a panel of Bible teachers. These posts are "breaking new ground" in my thinking and I do not have anything to contribute (except my appreciation!) One thing I have learned: we need to be especially careful and accurate when describing the fruits of regeneration and how we recognize them.

On that note (essential accuracy), I have something small to contribute. John noted the nuanced grammar employed in 1 John 5:1, which is (perhaps uniquely) reflected in the ESV translation. Here it is:

1 John 5:1
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.


As John (the blogger) pointed out, we are offered 2 "objective" evidences with regard to regeneration:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Therefore, there is no such thing as a person who believes that Jesus is the Christ but has not been born of God. In the words of a well-known SBC leader, "that species does not exist."

Secondly, everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. Therefore, there is no such thing as a person who loves the Father but does not love whoever has been born of him. Such persons exist only in our imaginations.

Evangelical Christians are often accused of reducing the Bible to propositional truth claims, and then further reduce to so-called "wooden" formulas that have no place in reality. However, the first epistle of John is itself expressed in formulas, perhaps more than any other Scripture. The Holy Spirit simplified it in this way - no revisionist historian can claim it is an invention from the Reformation. For some reason I never noticed that before!

In any case, I believe that the Holy Spirit gave us these formulaic “tests” of regeneration so that we would actually use them. They cannot be written off as “nice-to-know” information. I am following this discussion because all the participants seem to agree on that. The difficulty seems to be in determining how we define a “passing score” on these tests.

As Tom pointed out, a “goose egg” on church attendance is not a passing score according to Scripture.

Cap Pooser said...

One brother on this string asked about what is to win a soul. Spurgeon in his book, The Soul-winner has a very good answer to this question. He says it is informing the mind as to the gospel, impressing on the person the necessity of immediately closing with Christ. Then he says the person must be born again. He then describes some of the evidences of the new birth. This has been most helpful to me in my ministry
Further , J. C.. Ryles’ tract “Are you Born Again?’ gives six tests of the new birth. Very helpful, On a similar note, I think we have lost the idea of covenant in the churches. To me , that is the basis of considering attendance a vital thing, We say in our standard covenant that we call God to witness that this is how we will live as Christians and members of this church. Then we vow to support THIS church in its worship, disciplines, doctrines and ordinances. Those who fail to even intend to do this are breaking a sacred vow before God and bring the curses of breaking the third commandment on himself. If the church then doesn’t seek to find out why a person is not attending, it is breaking its covenant before God. I am sort of like David Miller . When the Lord gave me new life, you couldn’t keep me away from the people of God. And I hope I never get over it.
Cap Pooser

revival now said...

I certainly hope everyone will forgive my spelling and evident lack of proof-reading. We are in the getting ready for VBS - and my mind isn't always clear. Not that I can spell that well anyway!

John, you write, "what of the wolves, the goats and the dogs (Peter mentioned monkeys!)?" Oh, yes, I've seen a bunch of those critters too! I have even been bit by a few. Still, even when we were foreced to leave one church with people threatening to physically harm our oldest son in school - my wife and I were committed to the faithful preaching of God's Word (my wife's only preaching is to me :-D).

Paul warned us of wolves who would enter in among the flock. That's why a strong shepherd is so important. I have been in a lot of churches over the past seven years - and there are some wonderful things happening. However, there are also things going on (in and out of the pulpit) that are simply sad. I love our pastors and respect them tremendously, but they are placing themselves under a lot of unnecessary pressure with shallow theology and little or no discipline in the fellowship. God never called pastor's to be popular - only faithful.

BTW, I love your wisdom on the issue of the church/ assembly. I have had people proclaim "I am the church" in such a super-spiritual state. My response has generally been, "you alone are NOT the church. The church is the assembly of believers - and you don't come." Talk about people starting to bark! :-O

John said...

Hi. I think we're back to a point raised earlier: the role of a church covenant. It would, if allowed to be one of the basis for discipline, tend to separate many of the sheep from the goats, wolves, and dogs (I'm still not sure where those "monkeys" come from!). But the only way to make it work is to rid ourselves of the individualism that insists that we can recite this covenant, invoking the witness of God Himself, and yet chose to opt out of any (or all) stipulations of the covenant that we, in our arbitrary preferences, chose. I heard a woman in a business meeting to amend the church covenant make just that comment: that there's no real reason to amend it because we can ignore the provisions we don't like. (I'm sure "moderates" would celebrate that as "soul sufficiency".) Sin at its essence is just that kind of willfulness: I'll do whatever I want to do (or eat any fruit I want to eat) and no one, including God, is going to tell me any differently. I too heard a woman say "I am the church". Talk about individualism!

70 year old Brother in CHRIST said...

I see your HEARTS and Praise GOD for your teaching GOD'S WORD. Most CHRISTIANS and at one time I was one of them, can't see or really get to know GOD. When you really get into the WORD your eyes are opened by the HOLY SPIRIT, When we hear GOD'S WORD the HOLY SPIRIT stirs us and we want to learn more. So I share the following with you, but remember the Story of the Wheat and Tares.

Some regard the Book of Ecclesiastes as describing life apart from God, but clearly this text describes life that is lived in relationship with God. Through these words, the Preacher is not teaching that everything has an opportune time according to which one should choose one action or the other. Rather, he teaches that all events are in the hand of God, who makes everything happen in the time He judges appropriate.
Your Bother in CHRIST

Christopher Redman said...

I am also dwarfed by the level of wisdom and knowledge expressed through the bloggers on this post.

I am new in my present pastorate. (Less than a year) However, the church was severely broken by a split during the last pastor's tenure. The powerbrokers and leaders left the assembly and eventually the pastor resigned/retired.

The result is that the church is much like a clean slate. We are small (70 on Sunday) but I have been given great liberty to address and change things that I want to change.

So far, I have implemented a new members class prior to any member joining. I have implemented a leadership and ministry class for all leaders in the church to attend. The class focuses on defining ministry and gifts for ministry etc. There is also a major section on accountability both doctrinally and through lifestyle.

I am in the process of getting all of our leaders and ministers through this class and focused on unity in ministry at the church.

My next focus will be -

1) Training and improving our Sunday School leaders to teach and do outreach through Sunday School.

2) A biblical outreach and evangelism strategy.

3) An overhaul and implementation of a CHURCH COVENANT.

I am interested in pursuing the new and updated covenant in part based on Tom Rainer's book "High Expectations".

I plan to preach on church discipline and tie the church covenant to church discipline when needed.

I am no expert at this and I have no experience at this either. I have not tried to seriously reform a church in any of my prior pastorates. In short, I am learning through this blog and these posts and daily praying for wisdom to implement needed biblical changes.

CR

peter lumpkins said...

Hey Guyz,

Whoa boy! This pond has gained some water. Certainly, I thank you for taking the time to engage my comments. There are many good and right observations posted here and I remain glad to be a part of the discussion.

Allow me to post a few clarifications to some of your insights offered to me and I hope to have a little time later to log some comments to Dr. Ascol. I take with the utmost seriousness the last comment to me. He said: "All of this leads me to believe that you and I are not thinking along the same lines about these things. It is more than of passing interest that on this issue, I am in agreement with folks who would radically disagree with me on the doctrines of grace. Whenever you get Ergun Caner, Ed Young, Paige Patterson Danny Aiken and Tom Ascol agreeing on something, it is worth noting and taking a closer look."

It's pretty dog-gone scary, I must confess, to be opposite the aisle of this lineup of good and godly minds. Yet, our Lord willing, I am content to speak the truth as I see it and be open toward loving correction that I am willing to receive if either Scripture, sound reason or empirical evidence proves me wrong. With that, let me say to:

Doug, my brother,
thank you for assisting Dr. Ascol & me to look each other in the eye when we type. Too many times we do talk past one another. However, I must disappoint you and say that I would not agree with the statement that the ones not showing up are unregenerate. That, of course, constitutes my core concern and stands as the basis of my call for the Founders community to cease the rhetorical charge that the majority of the SBC is unregenerate.

chris r,
I laughed out loud at your comments. Please understand: I did not see humor in what you said. To the contrary, your posts contain many good insights to me about you; and concerning my own thoughts, I measured them again in light of what you said.

Rather, read your opening statement again: "I would make one comment to Peterfrank's statements” Afterward, you methodically offer six paragraphs, including the numbers! chris r, you are my kind of preacher! We must be cut from the same pattern! My wife tells me often after I preach, "You had a great lift-off, Hun, but you've yet to learn how to land".

Seriously, chris r, as I read your words, what struck me strongest was this: your comments reflect perfectly what Calvinism is. Calvinism is a lens...an interpretive grid thru which to filter every Biblical doctrine, every Church practice.

Indeed, the beginning solution to the problem of doing Church Discipline evidently, for you, chris r, is the correct preaching of the doctrines of grace.

And, I think this stands as direct evidence contrary to Dr. Ascol's assertion about Church Discipline being a non-Calvinist issue. He writes: "As I have said before, this is not a Calvinism issue. It is a Christian issue." I would simply say this: While Church Discipline is indeed a Christian issue, nevertheless, for Calvinists, Christians at large cannot adequately deal with the issue. Rather, Church Discipline issues, if they are to be solved at all, Calvinists maintain, must be solved by Calvinistic answers.

greg b, my brother,
I could not more agree that constantly speaking about how big one's field of ministry is sets us up for unhealthy, ungodly pride. Many times what we hear when a particular candidate's ministry field described as he's being nominated for a public SBC office, is glowing terms of bigness in budgets, buildings, baptisms, books etc, all of which is designed to make him appealing.

Sometimes I've dropped my head in shame because I know a Pastor of a little country church that was all told, he would be eminently qualified for the office as well. But, alas, no one will know him...No one, of course, but our Sovereign. F. Schaeffer preached a sermon once entitled NO Little People. I read it often.

Brother Fred,
Thank you for your heartfelt comments. And the percentages are discouraging, I concede. However, my concern is that purging the roles will not bring one single soul of those 93 3/4 % back to worship. None. And prayer, absolutely. I will pray for you and your Church...

John, my Brother,
I did not know I actually asked for objective criteria. I think someone else assumed that from a post I wrote. Yet, being in worship on Sunday, for me, is simply not enough to gauge a person's internal relationship with our God. In the end, all outward acts can all be mimicked by either the regenerate or unregenerate.

genembridges,
I thank you for my bingo, but I must give it back. Evidently, in your haste to get on to vacation, my brother, you failed to read the entire conversation that's been going on here. We have been switching back and forth between attenders and non-attenders in our discussion. I am perfectly aware of both those who do and who do not attend. My core concern is the dubious judgment, I believe, based evidently upon attendance alone that the majority of the SBC is unregenerate. I simply cannot make that call; and if you can, as I told others, well...Ok.

I think I have at least mentioned most of the commenters to my post. I am tired. I think I will early retire. I trust tomorrow's Lord's Day will gracious be. With that, I am...

Peter

John said...

I would recommend Mark Dever's "The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church". But I would wish that some "Reformed" Baptist pastors would write some "warts and all", unromanticized accounts of how they reformed their churches.

Tom said...

John:

Get the latest issue of the Founders Journal. It contains articles by 3 pastors who led their churches through reformation, with additional comments from some members who lived through the experiences. It is very informative. You can order it from the founders.org site.

John said...

Hi Peter,

You wrote: "I would not agree with the statement that the ones not showing up are unregenerate." This might be true of someone in some place where there is no healthy, Biblical ministry. However, to be regenerate means to be made alive. As Dr. Ascol pointed out in the article that initiates this post, if you are alive, you will eat, drink, etc., show the signs of life. An easy way to check someone's health is to check their appetite. If it is small, they may be sick. If for a long-time they do not eat or drink at all, they're dead! For a regenerate person, there will be an appetite that will show in "hungering and thirsting for righteousness", especially God-centered worship, attending (and attending to) the Word of God. Where someone eschews these things (and they are readily available, I fear they are dead. (However, I will [usually] judge no professed Christians salvation but put 2 and 2 together and ask them to examine themselves as to the sum.) Jim Elliff describes this in his excellent pamphalet, "Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member," from which I quoted above.

To put it another way, if you're part of the ekklesia (the assembly), you will assemble.

You're right: "In the end, all outward acts can all be mimicked by either the regenerate or unregenerate." There is one way, however, to separate the hypocrite from the saint. The hypocrite attends church to look good. The saint attends church to become good. So when you correct a saint, they appreciate it. They may not "enjoy" it, as they aren't masochists, but their greater love for God, for wanting to glorify and reflect Him more, overcomes the pain of conviction and having to humble themselves in repentance. A believer, as Jim Elliff writes, is a repenter. So the saint will love you for bringing the Word of God to you, even when it hurts. But the hypocrite, who wants only to appear good, will hate you for exposing his sin. The best way to separate the sheep from the goats, wolves, and dogs (and monkeys!) is how they respond to correction. Hence, the practice of church discipline is key to keeping the church from being overcome with the wrong kind of live-stock.

For me, I do not believe "Calvinism" is a lens through which I interpret scripture. I can to believe in "the doctrines of graces", etc., from scripture. Therefore, I believe it is a doctrine that arises from the Bible.

John said...

Thanks Tom,

I guess I'd also like some articles, or books, by some pastors who conscientiously tried it, patiently sought to lead their church to reform, and yet still wound up unemployed. We serve a Lord, who at the end of His earthly ministry, had only one disciple willing to stay with Him, while He was being executed!

scripturesearcher said...

It's YOUR BLOG, TA, but please do not "turn it off" just when it is getting interesting!

As has been stated, at least twice, REGENERATION (aka the new, spiritual birth) is one of the most MISunderstood subjects in the sacred scriptures....

and the boys are just getting warmed up!

Only God knows how much good this open discussion will do!

Persevere!

Tom said...

John:

I understand fully. The articles in the FJ are not triumphalistic at all. The men show some of their scars and tell some of their mistakes. I take comfort from reading the story of Jonathan Edwards. After leading his church for 23 years...including years of the "great awakening," he was fired. It is a humbling, sobering reminder to all of us that we live and pastor by the grace of God.

peter lumpkins said...

John,

Thank you, my brother. But as Dr. Ascol offered serious reservations about my optimism for the SBC family, I must say your optimism about the regenerate state of a person and how they evidently will always behave themselves, as you suggest, is interesting. Quite honestly, I think you leave me in the dust!

You mentioned "If for a long-time they do not eat or drink at all, they're dead!" Tell me, John, how long is your long? Does Scripture give us a nice, cozy answer to just when one is to determine when long has been long enough? And, to simply suggest as did you that the ekklesia will "ekklesee" :) appears, at least to me, trite.

I have for years appreciated the contributions of Calvinism to Christian thought in particular as well as Western culture in general. I also have benefited from its beauty and sophistication as a system. But, system it remains, brother John.

And that is why I metophorically spoke of it as a lens...an interpretive grid through which existence is viewed. I do not mean that as demeaning to Calvinism but as a way to more appreciate it.

I recall the Mighty Apostle when, coming to Ephesus, he stumbled across a left over group of The Baptist's disciples (Acts 19.1f). Paul asked them "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" Their candid answer was that they had not so much as even heard of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Apostle catechized them more properly. From my experience, that's the way I have found most Calvinists I personally know have come to embrace the DGs.

Christopher Redman said...

Peter,

Since I am good at numbered paragraphs, let me offer a few -

For now, I'll refrain from commenting on the Calvinism as a lens statement. Might comment later.

I just realized something regarding your position on unregenerate church members and non-attenders.

1) I wouldn't necessarily judge someone who is a non-attender as absolutely lost. There are certain judgments that I am incapable of making. I grant you this.

2) However, the excercise of church discipline is for both regenerate and unregenerate church members who are living in sin and refuse to repent.

3) The church covenant that bind members together in the local church fellowship reveals expectations of members. If a member is not upholding the church covenant, then their membership could be resinded (sp?).

Conclusion - discipline and removing non-fruitful members can be done and should be done without necessarily judging their actual salvation individually. Again, we are primarily judging their fruit and the necessity to bear fruit.

Have to go, Teaching, Preaching, and Worship is waiting...

CR

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

Dear Tom, Thanks for the wise comments. Edwards is a great example both of his personal faithfulness and the suffering that entailed. In my doctoral dissertation, I date the "death" of Puritanism with his dismissal in 1750.

Peter: It's true that there are no hard rules in scripture to tell us exactly how long someone may be from worship before considered spiritually dead. That's why I don't believe in passing that diagnosis. But 1 John says that they "went out from us because they were never of us." Whereas we today say, 'They'd prayed a prayer. Once-saved-always-saved.' And so even if they never come to worship, they're still saved.' Also, I suppose that one can make the "ekklesia" into a cutsy, shallow generalization. But words do have meaning. And the fact that God's people are called "the assembly" surely must be meaningful. (That the word "church" obscures that meaning is one of the most unfortunate contributions of the KJV.) Chris R. has some excellent comments about the church covenant relevant to this.

It is true that some of our more systematic Reformed brethren love to revel in their theological systems. I believe one of the reasons that "Calvinism" has fallen on hard times in the last century (or more) is because many Calvinistic ministers are so in love with their theology they love to lecture it systematically, quote from chatechisms and confessions, etc., which makes for poor preaching. I sincerely believe that the Word of God rightly and expositorily preached will produce the beliefs roughly known as Calvinism (with the major exception being on infant baptism).

1:49 PM

peter lumpkins said...

chris r,

An inherent weakness in relying so heavily upon church covenantism is the simple observation that very few SBC churches actually use them. Rather, many churches substitute vision statements and purpose documents, etc instead. Right or wrong, that is the reality of it.

That being so, it appears patently futile to insist that SBCers are overwhelmingly covenant-breakers. Perhaps a more apt description is many SBCers are vision-breakers :D

With that, i am...

Peter

Christopher Redman said...

Peter, John, and All - Greetings.

Peter refers to Calvinism as a system, a lens through which all else is viewed and interpreted. I have some more numbered paragraphs to offer in response.

1) It has become popular among non-calvinists to differentiate between systematic theology and biblical theology. (Biblical being preferred over systematic. I do not know how long this has been going on.) However, I have experinced those who uphold and profess to be biblical theologians to be "sincere, love the Lord, try their best, etc." but fall short in the area of the truth.

For example, they insist on only dealing with the interpretation of the immediate text in the immediate context. They refuse to consider the larger context, which is the whole Bible. When studying Paul, you can't quote James or Peter, only Paul. The primary problem with this is that their theology becomes disjointed and inconsistant and, I might add, easily overcome with basic logic and biblical application.

2) The major verses in the New Testament that are used to "prove calvinism as false" add up to a total of 8 or 9 verses. That's it!

Calvinism on the other hand has arguably the entire OT (God chose Israel, God is revealed as sovereign, etc.), John chapters 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 17; Romans 1-11; Ephesians 1-2, and miriad and miriad of verses scattered throughout the gospels and epistles and Revelation.

The lion share of biblical evidence supporting what we call Calvinism is absolutely overwhelming and dwarfs the opponents. All the "difficult" verses used by non-calvinists are easily understood and interpreted when applying the principles of interpretation consistently.

There is no contradiction in the Bible to God's free and sovereign grace working throughout human history to redeem a chosen people for Himself.

3) I heard of one of our major, non-calvinist, SBC leaders (ie: recent discussion on election) state, "Calvinism is too logical". My thought is, so what? Logical or illogical, what matters is whether or not it is true. Besides, there is nothing logical about the absolute sovereignty of God and the full responsibility of man at the same time. Calvinism holds that both are true!

Conclusion - Peter states that Calvinism is a lens by which all else is viewed and interpreted. I say, so what? If it's true then so be it.

Peter says that Calvinism is a system. I say, so what? If it's true, so be it.

I see no reason to reject the truth because it is systematized theology as long as it is true!

BTW - Peter you are a great guy! Very nice and I enjoy our online discussions.

CR

peter lumpkins said...

John,

I do not think it possible for me more to agree with you about so many very good, godly calvinist brothers who too much wear their calvinist convictions on their baggy shirts. What would be more helpful, it seems to me, would be to rightfully retain their convictions but wear their shirttails in their britches.

Any who have read my comments at length must have noticed my profound respect for Francis Schaeffer. Scheaffer was thoroughly reformed in both his theological convictions and his philosophical committments.

Yet, from reading his massive collection of writings, one is hard-pressed to find standard, bumper-sticker calvinist lingo coming from him. He simply, but powerfully, preaches Scripture and critiques culture all the while assuming reformation principles.

That remains one reason I feel his effectivemess has been ever so great among both calvinists and non-calvinists over the last half century.

By the way, Schaeffer remained red-hot pertaining to Church Discipline insisting on the practice of the purity of the visible church both doctrinally and behaviorally. Nevertheless, he nicely balanced it out with the practice of the beauty of love in the visible church.

I trust you to enjoy a delightful afternoon of Lord's Day rest. With that, I am...

Peter

Christopher Redman said...

Peter,

BINGO? Perhaps there is a vital area of needed reform. Instead of doing away with the church covenant, perhaps we should pass a resolution to revive and rekindle the practice of church covenants.

Besides, most of our 43,000 plus churches are old and traditional and small. They still have covenants even if they have forgoten them.

Most of the churches that I am familiar with use vision statements, purpose statements, and covenants.

In fact, covenants have really expanded recently to not only include membership but also leadership covenants, SS covenants, etc.

Tom Rainer's book, "High Expectations" talks alot about this.

CR

peter lumpkins said...

chris r

Why, my brother, it is not non-calvinists who make distinctions between systematic and biblical theologies. Rather, it is theologians themselves--regardless of persuasion.

In addition, chris r, I did not realize I implied that because calvinism is a system that, consequently, that makes it innately wrong as a system.

Nor do I believe that someting may be "too logical" as one of our good professors evidently suggested. I would caution someone, however, by placing too much confidence in logic. Philosophers usually limit logic as a negative test for truth, not a positive one.

Finally, chris r, I am afraid that non-calvinists would have to insist on more verses than 8-9 in making their case. I think James Arminius would trump you by several hundred. By the way, have you explored his works? I suggest you allow him to take you to school for a spell, so that you may further grasp why, after four centuries, his expositions still remain the burr under the calvinist's saddle.

And know, chris r: the feelings are mutual. I too have very much enjoyed our cyberlogue. I hope you have a peaceful Lord's Day evening. With that, I am...

Peter

Christopher Redman said...

I feel the heat of Ergun's rage, "Arrogant Calvinist!"

I'll step down from my lofty arrogant position for a moment and admit that there are great men of God on both sides of the Calvinism/Arminianism issue. Down through history and presently there are good men of God on both sides.

However, I feel the weight of influence, scholorship, and lasting impact within Christianity falls solidly on the Calvinist side.

Agustine, Calvin, Edwards, Whitfield, Spurgeon, etc, etc, etc. The fact that great men of God have differed in the past does not negate the reality that only one is correct.

The primary objection to Arminianism is the faulty foundation of philosophy on which it is built. Arminianism is not an interpretation to me nor a theology; it is philosophy.

The lion share of biblical weight falls to God's sovereignty in salvation and man's responsibility (not freedom). The objections to Calvinism (excluding the limited atonement objections) are generally drawn from the "whosoeverwills" (which I believe), Matt 23 (not willing), 2 Tim 2 (all men), and 2 Peter 3:9. As I said, there are about 8 or 9 verses used to stand against the bullwark of reformed soteriology. It simply does not match up.

I am sure that you are familiar with the reformed tradition regarding these "difficult" verses. My contention is, theology is not based on a single verse or a couple scattered here and there. The whole weight of scripture must be considered and evaluated carefully to ascertain truth even if the truth leads us to conclusions that are contrary to our philosophical ideals.

(If I was offensive earlier, please extend grace. I apologize)


I must leave now for evening worship.

CR

John said...

Hi Peter,
Yes, we're virtually agreed that the real problem with Calvinism over the past century is that most of the purveyers of it have been, admittedly, purveyers of a theological system. For example, Gerstener wrote a good book on dispensationalism which, however, would not convince anyone who was not already convinced that the Westminster Confession was a sound authority. Time after time when I've heard of a "Reformed pastor" and hear a message from him, it is a lecture on systematic theology, not an expository sermon on a text of scripture. This is the great weakness of so-called "Calvinism" in our day. However, that's not the way it has always been. For example, look at Calvin himself who spent most of his time expositing scripture (not lecturing systematics or logic); even his Institutes is organized more like the book of Romans than the standard philosophized systematic theology. I did my doctoral dissertation on the New England Puritans. Not once do I recall seeing them quote Calvin or lecturing out of a confession. They instinctively felt that their covenant theology came out of scripture. (And they were [largely] right.) And today, there are those of us who don't like to primarily identify ourselves as "Calvinists" because we didn't come to our convictions via Calvin or Calvinists confessions. I came to mine through the Bible. Mark Dever is certainly reformed and according to him the "first mark" of a healthy church is expository preaching. If he just lectured systematics, he would not be an effective leader for reforming the churches.

One quick note: If a church has a covenant that it purports to still be bound by (even if it merely hangs as a plaque on the wall), and they don't keep it, how can they be other than covenant breakers?

I wonder, would we want to replace marriage vows with marriage vision statements?

peter lumpkins said...

chris r,

I am unsure how you recall yourself as being arrogant or offensive, chris r. I assure you that I consider you neither.

As for Arminianism being neither theology nor hermeneutics, but rather abandoned on the ash heap of philosophy alone, I simply must record my profound disagreement and leave it at that.

One observation I need to point out, however. To imply such as do you, chris r, that Arminianism has no home in the Evangelical faith community in general nor in Baptist heritage in particular, stands demonstrably the precise reason why I, being convictionally comfortable embracing much in the wider reformed faith, refuse to climb aboard the Calvinist Resurgence wagon within the SBC.

I possess an intuitive sense that you are not alone. Indeed, were all told, I believe, were Founders Calvinists in a position to do so, the SBC would necessarily become a fully, confessing Calvinist Body-adhering to 5 Points and definitively not 4--bar none. Being Baptist, I just can't travel that road.

Preach hard, my brother! I trust our Lord to give you good fortune this evening. With that, I am...

Peter

Mopheos said...

Brethren,

In my opinion (such as it is), Church covenants may or may not be of much use in remedying the current malaise concerning regenerate church membership. At worst, a covenant is simply another layer of responsibility which both regenerate and unregenerate feel perfectly at ease to either heed or ignore these days. Covenants are much less authoritative than, say, Scripture, simply because they are not Scripture. If someone is willing to disobey the Word, a covenant is of little use to remedy that.

The SBC church in which I formerly served for 23 years was largely ignorant of its SBC covenant, and if push came to shove, the first thing to fly out of the stained glass window would likely have been the church covenant (except for the statement on alcoholic beverage use, of course :~). Our church constitution was the real source of ecclesiastical power, and if you breached protocol on the constitution, by golly, there was gonna be trouble.

This will surely sound pseudo-pious (or reductionistic, or idealistic, etc.) to some (many?), but I'll throw it out on the table anyway. Sheep hear the voice of their shepherd, and follow that voice. The Scriptures themselves are completely sufficient and sufficiently lucent in defining and explaining the nature of sheep/shepherd relationships and how they are to function. Goats aren't much interested in sheepology (sheep can't think for themselves and lack independence) and find it exceptionally hard to hear a shepherd's voice - at least with any intention of heeding that voice. Goats care less for church covenants than the shepherd's voice, but sheep who listen find church covenants to be redundant at best, and sometimes more burdensome than the shepherd's own voice.

It has often been said (in one form or another) that church covenants function as organs of church discipline, but perhaps they merely add another less authoritative layer of insulation between the shepherd who speaks and those who hear (or those who do not). Any true sheep - whether a recognized member of a church or not - is bound by covenant blood to its shepherd and to all his other sheep, and is therefore under the privileges and responsibilities of the New Covenant. Church members need to be taught the sober but joyful truth that it is not their church membership, nor their church covenant, that is authoritative and binding upon them as sheep - it is the transcendent voice of their shepherd. That voice speaks authoritatively to them wherever they are, whether they are a church member or not, and whether they are in America or Nepal.

I have had numerous interesting conversations with others in church leadership who believe that church discipline can only be exercised on those who are in voluntary association with a local church, and only by those in that church. While there are some logistical considerations which make this premise wise, the truth is that I am as liable to church discipline at the hands of believers in Nepal as here in my own fellowship. To deny this fundamental (new) covenantal truth - and its implications - is (I believe) to aid and abet the ongoing problems we face with unbelievers finding sanctuary on our church roles, and with apparent goats passively ignoring the voice of the shepherd from their comfy pews.

Well, I guess I stepped in it this time...

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

I trust this Lord’s Day to have been special for you. What text of our Lord did you so exegete and apply?

On coming from my trip in MS, I had especially a good time to ponder not only your posts to me but also once again to reflect upon the entire Founders’ discussion. Again, I have received immense edification during this cyberlogue.

It remains to be seen, however, how far apart we really are. And believe me, Dr. Ascol. I take to heart what you stated about being co-belligerents with those who normally do not hold your deepest convictions—Caner, Patterson, Akin, Ascol. What a team!

I see the oddness. In fact, I feel the oddness. For I feel virtually the same oddity as do you, Dr. Ascol, when it is I who end up defending on a Calvinist's blog, the spirit of the Geneva don himself when thinking about precisely how to apply Church Discipline. Arguing against the radical reformers whom Calvin perceived to possess an obnoxious, unrealistic passion for a “pure” church, he writes:

”They [Anabaptists, no doubt] claim that the church of Christ is holy. But in order that they may know that the church is at the same time mingled of good men and bad, let them hear the parable from Christ’s lips that compares the church to a net in which all kinds of fish are gathered and are not sorted until laid out on the shore (Matthew 13.47-58). Let them hear that it is like a field sown with good seed which is through the enemy’s deceit scattered with tares and is not purged of them until the harvest is brought into the threshing floor (Matthew 13.24-30). Let them hear finally that it is like a threshing floor on which grain is so collected that it lies hidden under the chaff until, winnowed by fan and sieve, it is at last stored in the granary (Matthew 3.12).”


Calvin then concludes by shattering their fanciful hopes of radical purity. He writes: “But if the Lord declares that the Church is to labor under this evil—until the Day of Judgment, they are vainly seeking a church besmirched with no blemish” (Book 4, Chapter 1, Section 13). The full tenor I sense here, Dr. Ascol, coming from the language of not only radically purging church rolls but explicitly proclaiming that most all SBCers are unregenerate persons stands, I believe, in stark comparison to Calvin’s own conflict with the radical reformation. In short, it just may be overkill to apply Church Discipline in such unguarded ways.

I found it intriguing, Dr. Ascol, that in your post to me you revealed what I can only call The Doctrine of Church Rolls (smile). I say this with as much honesty as I know how: I simply never have heard it put quite like that. I always understood that when the Widows were “taken into the number”; Paul meant the new Widow was to be taken into the “number of [present] Widows.” That’s all.

Granted they may have possessed a list. Yet, even granting that, just because they possessed a Widows’ list, it surely does not follow that they also possessed a list for the entire Church membership. Imagine it were it so. They could not afford copies of Sacred Scriptures, so they circulated them around. But they all possessed copies of Church Rolls. Please, my brother. I am being anything but sarcastic. I just have never considered this before. Perhaps it’s me. If so, something tells me that blasted C- I received in Biblical Archeology has alas come back and bit the fool out of me!


Consequently, even if it is right and true that the pristine Church possessed Church rolls, it seems to me that the Calvinist Resurgence of the SBC—which Founders, I believe, fully maintain is the rightful heir of the Conservative Resurgence—does not desire its contribution to the great Reformation solas—sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratis, sola Christa—to be identified with what antagonists will dub as sola rolla.

That aside, one final thought and I will attempt to get back to normalcy of life and just observe awhile your stream. Out of 70 plus comments, I find it telling, Dr. Ascol, that not one commenter has apparently grasped thus far that the only categories we have discussed pertaining to SBCers are the regenerate and the unregenerate.

It seemingly stands that if someone does not meet the basic duties of believing life, that someone is immediately judged unregenerate. Thus “the majority of the SBC is unregenerate”. However, in classical confessional Calvinism, there is a person whom the confessions describe as regenerate, yet living in sin.

For example the Westminster Divines write under The Perseverance of the Saints: “they may…fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein:” Indeed, I’m quite sure you agree that all reformed bodies as well as others who do not adhere to “falling from grace” offer similar descriptions of a “backslider” (Wesley) or the “sleeping saints” (Pink) including the BF&M.

Here is my point, Dr. Ascol: if it is true that it is not only possible but probable that many of the Founders’ so-called “unregenerate” masses in the SBC may in reality be regenerate—albeit living in sin—but a bona fide regenerate nevertheless, what follows from this?


First, that the assembled body of regular attenders are, in essence, no different than the great body of non-attenders. That is, the Assembled Church is mixed (Calvin). And the unassembled mass is mixed (me)—blatantly unregenerate and regenerate, yet fallen into grievous sin.

Second and more importantly, it follows if it is correct that the masses of SBCers whom Founders continues to identify as unregenerate but in reality a significant number of them are genuinely regenerate—albeit living in grievous sin—but regenerate nevertheless, then the Founders community stands on the threshold of bearing false witness against their neighbor (Exodus 20.16).

My hope, Dr. Ascol, is that the good and necessary discussion on Church Discipline continues to take place. I am honored you have had the patience to allow me to comment on your blog. I would hope that we all could move further along in the discussion and leave the purging of the Church Rolls to a day when we don’t have anything significant to do.

I hope Florida is as good as some say it is. I may be moving there in the imminent future. Perhaps we’ll do coffee sometime. With that, I am…

Peter

revival now said...

Peter,
As others have already stated, thank you for your gentleness and strength in the discussion. You do not back down in your convictions, but neither do you offend in your presentation. I find that admirable - and something to strive for in myself.

Still, I am not comfortable with the idea that because I am reformed in my theology or in favor of church discipline, I would be in favor of "purging" the church membership rolls. I do strongly believe in church discipline, but church discipline is redemptive. Only when every effort has been made to restore one of the wondering sheep is their name actually purged from the roll. That, I believe is Biblical (1 Cor. 5). Yes, there will always be regenerate and unregenerate fish in the net (oh, no, have I added another catagory to the dogs, wolves and monkeys? :O), but as ministers of the cross we are to strive to present a chaste bride to her Groom.

Currently, I am in a church that has slowly been dying for years. It has consistantly led its association in baptisms each year (over 125 in the last five years). Yet, these "converts" either disappear shortly thereafter - or openly express no interest in the things of God. There is NO discipline and as a result, we have a congregation that allows almost anything (excect the booze thing).

My wife and I are still asking the Lord why He has moved us here. I am not necessarily in a position to lead the church in the direction I believe God wants as I am not the pastor. I see such a need, but am seeking an understanding of what/ how/ and when. That is one reason I turned to this site. I've known of the founders ministries for several years. But I am finding much needed strength and wisdom during this time of need. Thanks to all of you - and you too, Brother Peter :-)

Tom said...

Mopheus:

Am I correct in understanding that you view our Lord's teachings in Matthew 18:15-18, as well as other teachings in the NT on church discipline, are to be carried out by the universal church? What Scripture do you see supporting your contention that this is a "fundamental (new) covenant truth"? Perhaps I am missing something but I see no way that, say, the case in 1 Corinthians 5 could have been handled by believers in Ephesus; especially in light of Paul's followup on this case in 2 Corinthians 2.

That church discipline is to be carried out in local assemblies seems more than mere logistical wisdom, it strikes me as biblically necessitated.

Christopher Redman said...

Peter,

I think I too will retire and monitor for a while.

However, I have not asserted that Arminianism has not been apart of the evangelical community. I believe that there have been many godly men and women who have embraced and propogated this doctrine. (Wesley, Moody, etc.) However, my premise is that the "system" is built upon a faulty foundation assuming man is morally free to will either good or evil. This, my brother, is philosophy.

As our brother John Piper recently stated, "The bible does not teach free will." After Adam and Eve fell and their posterity with them, free will by definition is a thing of the past.

John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day." (This is moral inability, not free will)

Also, my contention is that the greatest assets to the Christian church have come from those professing calvinism. (The SBC is case in point, all founders were confessional calvinists)

As for the SBC becoming confessional calvinists, WE ALREADY ARE! The BFM is a calvinistic confession. It's not arminian. What I desire is for our SBC brothers to actually believe their confession and not sidestep the issue at hand. Additionally, the Abstract of Principle affirms 4 point calvinism clearly. But, an unnamed president of one of our seminary who signs the Abstract annually barely holds to 3 points but in reality only holds to one. How can he sign the confession and preach holes through it? This is sidestepping and double talk. It's really not that complicated.

As far as Calvinists preaching confessions, systems, etc as opposed to exegeting scripture, I have not known of this happening in "exclusivity".

Piper preaches expositionally. MacArthur preaches expositionally. From my experience, calvinists preach more expositionally than say many preachers at the SBC pastor's conference.

I've really only embraced the Doctrines of Grace with understanding for the past 4 years. Since that time, I have preached on the doctrines of grace, specifically explaining them, in only 6 sermons. I taught one 13 week class on the subject. Besides this, for 4 years I have been nearly exclusively expositional. And, I've had more people express gratitude for preaching the text clearly than ever before.

Well, Peter, you are obviously intelligent and well studied. John and many others are quite learned as well. I'm beginning to feel the weight of my ignorance running with you guys.

"Even the fool is considered wise when he opens not his lips." I think I'll submit to the wisdom of this text.

CR

Tom said...

Peter:

We had a very good Lord's day. I preached out of Jeremiah 38 this morning on "The Cause of God and Truth" (and, apart from the title, I did not even consult Gill!). We just had 40 people return from serving a church in Mississippi that is still helping their community rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. This evening we heard their reports God's grace and faithfulness in their efforts.

Since you acknowledge that Patterson, Caner and Aiken are on the same page with me on this issue of unregenerate church members, why do you insist on describing this as a "Founders" issue? Given our history and heritage, it would be more appropriate to call it a "Baptist" issue.

The typical practice of modern Southern Baptist churches to have vastly more members who fail to participate in church life than those who do is incredibly out of step with the recognized, almost universal ecclesiology of Baptists throughout our history. That is true for both Arminian and Calvinistic Baptists. Any recognized Baptist confession of faith will bear this out.

And you are exactly correct--you are much closer to John Calvin on this issue than I am. If you want to own Calvin's ecclesiology, be my guest! I will take his soteriology and find a much nearer kinship with our evangelical Anabaptist forebears on ecclesiology. But you should be consistent and go ahead and start baptizing babies along with Calvin, if you are going to follow his ecclesiastical principles because that practice is part and parcel of them.

I am puzzled by your lack of understanding of Paul's meaning in 1 Timothy 5:9. Perhaps you should go back and study it a little more carefully. The word that Paul uses there is καταλεγέσθω. Louw and Nida define it this way: "to enroll a person as a member of a group — ‘to put one’s name on a list, to enter someone on a list.’" Dismiss my argument from this vers with a smile and a cute name if you wish, but I fear if you do you will dismiss the Apostle Paul's meaning, as well.

Since you seem to have trouble believing that there was a recognizable number of church members in Corinth, how do you explain Paul's appeal to the "majority" in 2 Corinthians 2:6? Perhaps I am missing the obvious here (I never was very good in math), but I have always thought that you could not identify a majority unless you had a definitive number?

I certainly acknowledge the reality of backsliding. Are you suggesting that the 60% of Southern Baptists who show no signs of spiritual life are better categorized that way than unregenerate? If so, you would find me quibbling with you except to ask, how do you distinguish between a backslider and a false convert? How do you tell them apart? I am not being sarcastic here. I would genuinely like to know what the secret is to distinguishing between an unregenerate person and one who is "regenerate--albeit living in grievous sin--but regenerate nevertheless." Since you say that this is not merely the "possible" explanation but the "probable" explanation for the sad state of affairs in the SBC then I assume that you have discovered how to make such distinctions.

Even if you are correct, does this mean that you are happy to have churches that are dominated by backsliders? Can you find such a church in the NT? Can you find an example in the NT?

If the church at Corinth was like the typical SBC church of today, then less than half of their members would have been present to hear Paul's letters read aloud to them--even if those letters were read every Lord's day for years.

The sad fact is that because church discipline is rarely practiced in our day, most churches are not in a position to make declaration about the spiritual condition of their flagrantly sinning members. The incestuous member in Corinth looked like an unbeliever for a while. But when loving discipline was carried out on him (and all biblical church discipline is loving--to suggest otherwise is to set up a false, unbiblical dichotomy between love and discipline), he repented and the church was instructed to receive him back.

My concern with church discipline has never been a "purging of the rolls." It has been to see biblical church order--one of the great issues which Baptists have championed throughout our history--restored to our churches. Church rolls would not have to be purged if church discipline, both formative and corrective were being practiced. Where such discipline has long been forsaken, its recovery may include something that looks like a purge, but will in reality be the application of our Lord's teaching about responsible Christian living in the church.

If you make it down to Florida by all means look me up. Coffee will be on me.

John said...

Hi Peter and all,

Thanks for the quote from Calvin. Like Dr. Ascol, I think Calvin was wrong and it was probably a hermenuetical mistake rooted in his retention of infant baptism. After a while, pedobaptists have to somehow explain why so many "baptized" infants grow up to be no different than the average worldling. So the clear explanation of the Lord Jesus that "the field is the world" is ignored in favor of the field (or the net, or whatever) being the church.

As to your point about James Arminius: very few people really study Arminius. "Arminianism" is really not, as usually used, strictly a school of thought following Arminius. It is, as J. I. Packer has pointed out, really the natural theology that occurs to the natural person, assuming his choices, his actions, indeed himself, to be the ultimate cause of what he does. The world loves to say, "I am the captain of my fate!" Arminianism is the default theology that occurs to the sinner, who wants to be "like God", eat whatever fruit he wants to eat, who assumes that he is free and at the center of the universe. That's why it is so prevalent. Not because very many people have studied an otherwise obscure early 17th century Dutch theologian.

Also, I've tried to make one point clear but I'm not sure it's been believed. I do not believe in concluding (except in the most extreme cases) that a professed Christian is "unregenerate." I believe in teaching, as does the article that kicked off this thread, that there is such a thing as regeneration and it makes a radical difference in someone's life (e.g. "new creature") and that difference can be seen in certain outward behavior (Bible reading, prayer, attendance at worship, being among them). Hypocrites can copy those differences but they do so for a different reason: just to look good. That's why discipline will "smoke them out" and a lack of discipline will eventually mean that a church will be over-run with hyporcrites. There may indeed be periods in the life of a regenerate person when he or she has fallen into grievous sin. I won't (usually) judge them as "unregenerate". But I believe in calling people to examine themselves to see if they are regenerate. Paul does this at the end of 2 Corinthians (13:5-6). He tells "Christians" he has worked with for years to "test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith." And then he suggests that they might, indeed, fail the test. Peter too suggests something similar (1 Pt. 2:1-3). As in Dr. Ascol's article on regeneration, the Apostle tells us to "long for the pure spiritual milk" but then gives the test, "if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." Those who have tasted that the Lord is good will long for the pure spiritual milk -- just like you'd long for some of my BBQ if you ever really tasted any! Those who don't long for it may never have tasted it.

What we do in church discipline, whether for nonattendance at worship or some other sin, is not necessarily to say that so-and-so is unregenerate. We don't know that. Rather, when we discipline someone and remove their name from a membership list we say, "We can't tell if they are a Christian or not." You see, the flip side is when we put someone's name on a membership list is that we are declaring to the world that as far as we can tell this person is a true Christian. If it gets to the point that we can't tell that any more, either because their lives are a disgrace or we simply don't know what is going on in their lives because we never see or hear from them, then we are saying something to the world (and to God) that we have no right to say, that may very well be a lie. If the person is truly regenerate, he or she will be returned to the fold through discipline. If not, "They went out from us, but they were not of us." (1 John 2:19.)

Mopheos said...

Hello Tom,

No, I wouldn't see the Matthew 18 passage being carried out by the universal church - I'm not even sure how such a thing could possibly happen apart from an out-of-body experience. I'm not envisioning anything that mystical.

I still believe church discipline is a local affair - that is, the church in its corporate expression on the earth, which is to say, local assemblies. I guess my objection (which was obviously poorly stated) was to the notion common among brethren (and a growing body of lawyers) that the only venue in which a disciple can be disciplined is the one which carries his name on the member roster. If he is a member nowhere, then he is not subject to discipline by a corporate body, or even by individuals, as in the case of another brother or two or three witnesses. Corresponding to this notion is the idea that if one withdraws his membership, he is removed from the arena of discipline, and jurisdiction comes to an end for the disciplining body.

With regard to the new covenant connection, if I may, I will borrow a phrase from our fellowships Introduction booklet: "Scripture teaches that all who are in Christ Jesus are one body and “individually members of one another. There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in [us] all." All Christians are members in the New Covenant through and with their Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and are, therefore, in covenant with one another and share equally in the covenant blessings and responsibilities of the one body. This is how the Bible views membership.”

I know I am stating the obvious, but membership in this sense transcends my voluntary association with any given fellowship and nullifies the mistaken notion that one can enjoy certain privileges of the new covenant without the commensurate responsibilities, or that one can, simply by disassociating, remove oneself from the practice of discipline once it has begun.

In the case of I Corinthians 5, if the occasion arose, believers in Ephesus would have the same obligations and approval of heaven to begin discipline or continue discipline on a believer from Corinth who might have, for instance, fled to Ephesus, or who might have moved his membership to Ephesus because he wasn't being "fed" at First Baptist, Corinth (but who in fact was still living in such a way as to call for continued discipline). I think the nature of membership in the new covenant community both necessitates and approves of this kind of "brothers keeper" approach.

I am aware of churches that tacitly remind members under discipline that a simple letter of withdrawal will essentially bring threatened public expulsion to a quiet end. I know "Christians" who labor under the delusion that their membership - like their salvation - was and is a simple matter of the free exercise of their will (they're the ones who vote with their feet and their pocketbooks - oh, brother). We heard on a previous blog post of an SBC denominational leader who suggests wayward or absentee members be retained on church rosters in order to evangelize them. We all know of churches with members who, by virtue of their registry on the roll, think they are entitled to mitigate the instruction and command of the Shepherd. I think these are ecclesiastical examples of the tail wagging the dog which are connected to a truncated and/or warped understanding of membership in the body.

My participation in the new covenant community (if I truly belong to that community) is not determined by my geographical location (or relocation), democratic dissent or succession from the union, voluntary or otherwise. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it...I think. Grace and peace,

Timotheos

fred said...

Brothers,

I thank you for your comments. The tone that the opposition, Peter :) has set, has been, what I think Christ honoring.

For those of you who have said a prayer for us, and the work being done here, I thank you. It is most humbling to find such favor. For that I will thank the God of all grace, the Lord Jesus Christ!

It seems appropriate here, since we are talking about how to distinguish between the true and false convert to relate this story.

Until recently, about the past 2 years, it had been the practice of the assembly of believers who I have joined with to receive into membership those who have made a profession of faith and seek membership, for instance, at the close of a service when an invitation had been given the person is received by an amen from the congregation.

My Pastor, who I consider a co-laborer and friend, while not totally responsible for all of what some may call false converts, and unregenerate church members, since he has only been Pastor for 5 years, came to realize that a change was in order. He stopped giving an "alter call" at the close of every service. Now he sometimes says even before delivering a sermon, "There is an open invitation to take Christ at any time, you need not wait to the end of this message". This has upset some folks, and even divisions have occurred, and some have left the church angry.

Also, we no longer receive people into membership based upon their profession only, but have established a new members class.

Now about the true and the false convert.

Last fall the Power Team came to our church and held a week long crusade. A massive number of people, (over 200, that is about equal to the size of our congregation) mostly young though about 25 were adults came forward to an alter call given nightly over the five day event. On one particular evening over 90 did so. It is my understanding that normally, there is a large baptism service at the end of a Power Team crusade. My Pastor, while fully supporting the crusade, thought it wiser to take a wait and see approach before baptizing any of the 200 and asked the Power Team not have the baptismal service, to which they agreed. Now, 6 months later, we still have not seen any of the people come back to our church even once. Though I do know of someone who has been attending a church a little closer to his home, and there may be others like him.

Peter,

What if these people would have been received into membership right away as was done in the past? Where is the evidence of their regeneration? Could a person be backslidden who has joined a church (say at a revival meeting) in the way I described, and never to return? Isn't it more likely, that they were never truly born again?

As for the follow up, some of the people just did not want to be bothered. Does that sound like someone who has just been redeemed?
If our church is in any way representative of the SBC, then millions truly are lost.

Thanks, and sorry for the book!

peter lumpkins said...

To All My Brothers Across the Aisle (but in the same Assembly) :D

I do appreciate the continued discussion and the questions my posts appear to raise. I am tempted to post, as best I can, a few rejoinders.

Nevertheless, I have personally learned Solomon's wisdom when he said "there is a time for everything..." Thus, there is a time to post and a time to shut up and let somebody else talk awhile.

So, ya'll keep talking. The whole biblical idea of Church Discipline needs to be revisited. I'll just sit back and soak in the discussion.

May our Sovereign bless you today with His Fatherly care. With that, I am...

Peter

John said...

Peter is right that the idea of discipline needs to be revisited. It's interesting how that practical eccesiastical issue is so naturally intertwined with regeneration, a soteriological issue.

I think Dever's book "The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church" and Elliff's pamphalet "Revival and the Unregenerate Church Member" show the relation between a right understanding of salvation -- that it is, besides just judicial justification, also regeneration, becoming "born again," "a new creation", etc. -- and so it will inevitably result in a transformed life. The great enemy of this in our day is not Arminianism per se but the antinomian, "carnal Christian" idea of salvation, that one can be "saved" because of a mere acknowledgement of a few doctrines. Mere acknowledgement has been confused with genuine, saving faith and no signs of spiritual life are expected because of the false idea that one can be a "carnal Christian" with Christ in one's heart but not on the "throne of one's life" (as though Christ the King will reside anywhere else but the throne!). Quite simply it is antinomianism and the chief purveyor of this false doctrine is dispensationalism, the same approach that gave us the pre-tribulation rapture!

SavedandSure said...

Distinguished Doctor,

In a future article for discussion please consider the subject of CHURCH DISCIPLINE...

and perhaps there will be a deluge of comments on the scriptural doctrine of REGENERATION.

Proverb 17:22

Greg B said...

Peter:
I hope you are monitoring, though I appreciate the need to not answer every post, it can be overwhelming and what you need to do gets pushed to the wayside.
About the idea of a system and Calvinism being the lense. I agree many try to do such. Every thing must fit inside the Covenental or Dispensational systems, but I think most "Calvinistic Baptists" that I meet, don't think in terms of systems. Most of us weren't taught that way. Most of us do see things through the lense that God is totally soveriegn and that the Bible is inerrant and sufficient. That does lead us to alot of the same answers, but I dare say, for most of us, not a system as such. Surely one is formed as humans do think of things within categories.
Likewise, I find many....for lack of a better word mainstream Baptist that seem to endorse God's soveriegnty and the inerrancy of the Bible right up until it limits the humans right to choose or express that God ordained specific hardship. The lense is Man choice must be preserved. I think this is the real rub.
Greg

Micah said...

From my experience, part of the problem lies with the materials and methods used in attracting and teaching 'seekers'.

The church of which I was formerly a member of used both the Purpose Driven Life and the Alpha Course materials in their various classes. Both products promote the view that all a person need to do is to say a prayer and consider themselves "saved", completely removed from any potential wrath of God. The Alpha Course provides a "sinner's prayer" at the end of the second chapter, basically after the second meeting, it is usually read aloud as a group with assurance of salvation immediately following.

The result of such products is akin to the old sales gimmick, the bait and switch. The Alpha Course promises happiness and ecstatic experiences similar to those claimed of charismatic churches as assurances, both subjective means bereft of Scriptural support. Later, when (if!?) the new "convert" finally starts reading Scripture they'll find a product much different than that either PDL or Alpha promised... rather than the happiness and success both products claim, the life of the disciple of Christ is promised in Scripture to be one of suffering and cost. WAIT! That's not the wine and pizza I saw in the Alpha meetings!

In the end, this dichotomy between medium and message infiltrates the church itself, as the gospel is watered down further and further, the truth is replaced with the Alpha or PDL version... even to the extent that, at my church, the adult fellowship class leaders (of which I was one) were told not to teach "Bible facts" but to focus on "application" apart from the Scripture. The one thing God uses to convert the soul, change the heart, and create faith in His elect is lost.

Now, I realize that while my Baptist church was not a member of the SBC, but an independent congregation, the same holds true for many SBC churches that are using these methods or even replacing the gospel with moralism or life-lesson type sermons. Rather than actually expecting the text to mean what it says, some seem intent on making it applicable to every situation regardless of context.

While some may claim it is possible to "eat the fish and spit out the bones" with such products, it bears noting that children often don't know fish from bones, and choke on the bones and die.

John said...

Micah,

You make several excellent points. There is a prevalent approach to evangelism that doesn't seem to really expect regeneration to take place. The Puritans took 2 Cor. 5:17, "if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation", to mean that one way to see if you were really converted was if you showed a new life. Today some seem to take it to mean, especially in light of a shallow view of "eternal security", that if you have said "the prayer" you're a new creation even if your life doesn't show it. The Puritans were right!

John said...

Dear Leighton,

Hi. You wrote: "We are talking about men's ability to respond to God's initial working, not simply his condition if left to himself. Make sense?"

With all due respect, no, it doesn't make sense. Man's ability to respond to God's initial working is the heart of his lostness (his deadness in sin) if left to himself. The very heart of total depravity is that left to himself man is not able to respond to God. His condition left to himself is vividly described in Genesis 6:5, "Every inclination of his heart is only evil all the time." Note how deep and sweeping that is. It's not just that all our actions are tainted by sin but that the very inclinations of our hearts are sinful. Not some inclinations. Every. Not some of the time. All the time. Chosing for God, i.e. believing, is the best "work" we could do. But left to ourselves we would never do it because "every inclination of our heart is only evil all the time."

That being our state without God, every righteous person in the Bible (or otherwise) is so because of the gracious work of God, not because they called on "the better angels of our nature" -- since there are no better angels in our nature (every inclination, only evil, all the time!).

You wrote that "faith is purified by faith." Yes, and Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that faith is a gift. Even repentance is a gift. No fallen person will chose to believe and repent because . . . Gn. 6:5, Jer. 17:9, Isaiah and the "filthy rags," etc.

Also, quite frankly, no one (orthodox) is saying that the "gospel is not sufficient." But the Spirit's call has to be made. It is not just a matter of bare words with no Spirit making the words effective. We err when either, like the so-called "hyper-Calvinist" we say God doesn't need means, He'll call His elect without them, or, on the other hand, the means can somehow work without God. You can preach to dead bones but they won't come alive until the Spirit blows.

There also seems to be an inaccurate understanding of law and gospel. The law is really part of the gospel, preparing people for it. The "evangelical use of the law" is the most important part of the law.
jc

5:35 PM, June 28, 2006

Dear Leighton,

Hi. You wrote: " I have pointed out using scripture, it appears that new life is accomplished through faith, not the other way around." 1 John 5:1 says that new life, regeneration, comes first; then faith. Faith is a fruit of life. A dead tree cannot produce such a living fruit. We first have to make the tree good. There's some discussion about this on the "Regeneration" thread which I'd encourage you to examine.

5:39 PM, June 28, 2006



Dear Leighton,

Hi. As addressed in the "Regeneration" thread, 1John 5:1 is often mistranslated, including in the KJV and NIV. The past perfect tense (for "born") is not captured by most translations. It says something like, 'Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.' The regeneration is first, then the faith.

The other two verses you mention point to faith being the "means" of salvation: "through faith". Yes, we are brought to life "through faith". The life would apparently be the whole "life" (not just the initial regeneration), concluding with glorification, that is offered (and given) to God's people. The word is preached to people dead in their sins. (People dead in sin are not like saved people now who have both a fallen and a regenerate nature, one still sinful and the other "dead to sin." People dead in their trespasses and sins have only the fallen nature which is "dead" [not just sick or weak] to God.) The Spirit makes the dead live, through the sufficient gospel, and they immediately have faith. Through that faith (which is a gift, Eph. 2:9-10), they repent (which is a gift, 2Tim. 2:25), and cling to Christ. Nothing in their hands they bring, not even "the better angels of their nature."

The natural person could not possibly produce faith because "every inclination in his heart is only evil all the time."

10:43 PM, June 28, 2006


Hi Leighton,

"Is believing ever said to be a work? If so, regardless of whether you are a Calvinist or not it could be said that we are saved by grace through a work. Do you believe that we are saved through a work?"

A "work" is, by definition, anything that comes originally from us. So faith, as you are trying to define it -- as originating from us, before regeneration -- is a "work". Therefore, it could not save; that is, what you have defined as "faith" is not what the Bible uses as saving faith.

Actually, there is grace mediated through "means" (but not through "works" that come from us). God gives us faith (as it says in Ephesians 2:9-10, faith is part of the package that "is a gift, not of ourselves"). Even repentance is "granted" by God. Saving grace is mediated through the "means" of gospel preaching and our faith (which originates from the life the Holy Spirit grants). Sanctifying grace is mediated through the means of baptism, the Lord's Supper, attending to the teaching and preaching of the Word, prayer, giving, etc. Grace comes to us through "means". This is what James means when he says "faith without works is dead." There is such a thing as "dead faith", merely cognitive, arising from us, and ironically itself a work that does not save.

Since "every inclination of our hearts is only evil all the time," all our "righteousness is filthy rags," our hearts are "desperately wicked", and we are "dead in our trespasses", we cannot, of ourselves produce saving faith. We would not even want to.

10:55 PM, June 28, 2006



Dear Leighton,

Hi. You wrote: "Paul has no problem crediting Abraham for his faith,. . ." No. This is not what Paul says. The Apostle says that faith is a gift (Eph. 2:9-10).

Your arguments are so confused I'd encourage you to go back and read my previous posts, much of the discussion on the regeneration thread, and spend some time carefully following the unfolding of the book of Romans, etc.

Sadly, it wasn't my logic that you didn't accept but what Gen. 6:5 (and the other scriptures) simply say: "every inclination of their hearts is only evil all the time." With three sweeping, absolute qualifiers, there's nothing complicated about it. Human beings apart from God's grace are totally depraved and incapable of saving faith.

John said...

Dear Leighton,

Hi. Prepositions are important parts of our language. If we are saved "through" faith, that no more means faith saved us than saying "I drove from Atlanta to Birmingham through I-20" means that I-20 was responsible for getting me to the city with the world's best BBQ!

God uses means. But it is not the means that save. Faith is a means. But it is not the faith that saves. If God "purifies our hearts through faith", faith is the means that God used to purify our hearts, not that faith purified our hearts and so we saved ourselves by mustering it up.

Leighton Flowers said...

Gene, thank you for your post. I appreciate your arguments and respect your position, however I must disagree. My comments are in bold…

Leighton, 1 John 5:1 is not a weak argument. In point of fact, it is not in a vaccuum. If you believe that it is a weak argument for monergistic regeneration which causes faith and is antecedent to it, then you must believe that 1 John 4:7 and 1 John 2:29 are weak arguments that works do not cause salvation.Look at 2:29. "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him." Now, we're not Catholic, and, consistently, we all agree that righteousness is a product of the new birth, e.g. regeneration results in righteousness in the life of the believer. This means that in 1 John 5:1, "believing" in Jesus as the Christ is the result of being born of Him. Why? Because it is inconsistent to say otherwise. Why reverse the logical/causal order or 1 John 5:1 but not 1 John 2:29?

This assumes it was the author’s intent to communicate an order here rather than to attempt to identify the inward hidden condition of a man by pointing to what has been manifested outwardly. Faith can be seen through confession and obedience. Being born of God cannot be seen or know except by what is outward. So, it seems to me, if we view they verse with complete objectivity (without attempting to apply it as a proof text for ordis salutis) that the author’s intent could very simply be to show that we can know if a man has been born from above by his faith and obedience. We can look at other more explicit texts to see that we are brought to life through the means of faith, such as…

Col 2:12 -
This happened when you were placed in the tomb with Christ through baptism. In baptism you were also brought back to life with Christ through faith in the power of God, who brought him back to life.

It seems we are brought back to life THROUGH FAITH!!!

Joh 20:31 -
But these miracles have been written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and so that you will have life by believing in him

How are we to have life? By believing in him.


John 8:43 is very clear:

Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.

I used to believe this was a very strong proof text for Calvinism until I came to understand an important hermeneutical point. Who is his audience? And to whom is Christ referring?

Calvinist typically assume that Christ words here mean, “He who is of God (the elect) hears the words of God; for this reason you (non-elect ones) do not hear them, because you are not of God (like the elect ones are).

That is an incorrect assumption. He is not referring to “you” (non-elect) and “He who is of God (the elect), but instead to “you” (humanity, for none of us are “of God” we are all born as children of the devil) and “He who is of God (Himself, the Messiah). So the meaning is, “He who is of God (ME) hears the words of God; for this reason you (humans who are from the devil) do not hear them, because you are not of God (like I am).


First, note: "Why do you not understand what I am saying?" It is because you cannot hear My word. This is stated verbatim. Jesus says there is a causal relationship between their ability to understand and hearing. They do not understand because of their inability to hear.

Who is Jesus speaking to? Christ’s audience here is the Jewish leaders of his day who are in the midst of being temporarily judicially hardened in their rebellion so that they cannot hear, see, understand and repent. In Mark 4 Christ tells us that he has hidden the secrets of the kingdom from them in parables so that they won’t come to repentance and Paul explains in Romans 11 that they have been sent a “spirit of stupor” so as to blind them from the truth. This is done for a time in order for Christ to fulfill his purpose of redemption through their disobedience. They had to remain blind in order to guarantee they crucify Christ. Christ knew that the gospel unveiled could draw them to faith and he didn’t want that yet. Make sense?


Again, 1 John 2:29, 4:7, and 5:1 also are this same construction:

He who is of God hears the words of God.

They hear because they are "of God."

The only one who is “of God” in this passage is Christ. We are all of the devil just as Paul explains in Eph. 2: 1-8. The reason this audience remained unable to hear is because they were being blinded from seeing, hearing or understanding, otherwise they might have seen heard understood and repented, just like the Gentiles were (Acts 28:21-28).

Leighton Flowers said...

John, I'm not sure how to drag my comments from the other thread to this one, but please go there to notice that I have replied to some of the posts of yours. You can respond here. Thanks

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi. Prepositions are important parts of our language. If we are saved "through" faith, that no more means faith saved us than saying "I drove from Atlanta to Birmingham through I-20" means that I-20 was responsible for getting me to the city with the world's best BBQ!

Oh, I agree. I'm not attempting to argue that faith saves us. I'm arguing that grace saves us through faith. Faith is the means and thus faith precedes or is a condition for salvation. I believe, based upon the texts I have presented thus far, that regeneration is accomplished through the means of faith as well. Faith is accomplished through the means of hearing God's message. "How will they believe unless they hear?" "Faith comes by hearing."

1. The gospel is preached
2. The gospel is heard
3. The gospel is believed or rejected (response)
4. The believer's heart is purified, the believer is brought to life through faith
5. The believer grows in conformity to the Son as all those who believe have been predestined for.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi bristopoly, I'm carrying this over from the other thread... I may not comment on everything you wrote here because it was very long, but if I skipped something you really wanted me to address, just let me know.

Hi Leighton, thank you for your reply. I appreciate such a respectful conversation. If only they could all be this way.

Amen!

But, as I said, if the U, I and P are all over the place, the T is then true as well, is it not? So we should really be talking about the entire 5 points here.

We can address the other points too, but I think much more hinges upon this simple understanding of men's ability to respond in faith to the simple gospel truth. Why assume we can't unless that is clearly taught. I don't believe it is from what I have read thus far.

So the hardening is not "why" someone doesn't believe, but rather a judgment that will not give mercy so that someone might believe, but instead even sends further influences to make their rebellion concrete.

Sorry, I just think that is a stretch. I know you disagree. The passage clearly shows that Israel had grown hardened and then tells us what might have happened otherwise and even goes so far as to contrast the hardened condition of the Jews with that of the Gentiles who Paul says, "will listen." (Acts 28:28) How do you explain that if indeed all men, both Jews and Gentiles, are born in a equal state of blindness and deadness to the gospel?

I mean how do you make a man born blind even blinder? See my point? I'm not arguing that men are as immoral as they can be, I'm speaking about their ability to hear and see God's direct revelations. The Jews have grown calloused to them over the years, but the Gentiles will listen.


Paul has just stated that the hardening is a judgment made before one does anything right or wrong. That means before anyone has done anything, God decides whether He is going to forgive them or not for what they are going to do. His hardening and mercy have nothing then to do with what the person does (since all will do evil).
Then you turn around and say, because the text says He has hardened the Jews and the hopes of this is that one day the Jews become jealous and are saved, that this hardening cannot be for "the Jews" damnation.
The problem is your confusing what "Jews" he is talking about and thinking that the first group of hardened Jews (the ones being hardened at the time of his speaking) and the Jewish people to come, who might be jealous and turn, are the same individuals.

I'm attempting to be consistent in my understanding of Romans by interpreting Romans 9 treatment of those being hardened in the same manner I interpret those hardened in Romans 11. I see no basis for doing otherwise. Why would I assume that those Jews hardened in Romans 9 are the reprobate of Calvinism who have no hope of salvation when clearly Paul explains in Romas 11 that the Hardened Jews have not stumbled beyond recovery (a quote pulled from Romans 9 if you notice) but may be provoked to envy and saved. Paul sums it up by stating that he has bound all to disobedience so as to have mercy on all. (vs. 32) Thus proving even his act of hardening is not an act of condemnation as you insert, but an act of mercy

It is clear that the particular Pharisees who are hardened are hardened SO THAT THEY DO NOT BELIEVE and ARE UNABLE TO BELIEVE.

I hope you understand that I agree with this. Christ clearly didn't want them to come to faith at this time. He first wanted to accomplish the crucifixion but he also wanted to accomplish the ingrafting of the Gentiles within the church, something the Juidizers attempted to prevent and may have been successful doing had Jews converted in mass numbers in the beginning.

Along those lines, please show me where the Bible says we are "born again" by faith. "Brought to life" can refer to ANY aspect of the salvation process

If being "brought to life" is not an indication of being made alive or reborn I'm not sure what is, but nevertheless...

Please show me the "born again" or "born from above" BY faith passage before you say that the Bible teaches it and make it the grid for all else. I need to know what passages your talking about in order to make a judgment on what they are saying.

Well, I may not get the exact words, but neither can you apparently. So, I will attempt to find verses which do support this concept. If one is born of God then he would be a son of God, right? Could someone be born of God without being a son?
Gal. 3:26 -
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

This one uses the term "born again..."

1Pe 1:23 -
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

If you read on into verse 25 it indicates the the "word of God" spoken here is in reference to that which has been preached to them.

How many times does Christ say, "your faith has made you well." Yet you would insist one must be made well in order to have faith and I just don't see that anywhere in scripture.


Leighton, I should have looked at the verse in Greek before I commented. This is actually a Greek thing that I missed. The word mepote, which has been translated "otherwise" is not intending to say that they would accept God on their own if they had not been hardened. It means lit. "at no time" "not ever." So the verse reads "so that they might not ever" "so that they might never."

Actually the translators have it as meaning: "1) that ... not, lest, whether perhaps, whether or not, in no way, perhaps"

The same word "lest" is used in Matt. 15:32: Then Jesus called his disciples [unto him], and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, LEST they faint in the way.

It is a conditional statement if/then conditional clause, saying do this LEST this should happen. If you do this the fainting won't happen but if you don't do this it could happen. Same in Acts 28. If they are hardened they can't come to faith, but if they weren't they might have done so, just like the Gentiles (vs. 28)


The problems I have with your explanation of John 6 are numerous. Let me just summarize a few:

1. Christ says "no one" can come to me "unless---"if not" the Father draw Him.
This is the same phrase used in John 14:6 "no one" "unless---"if not." If I say that the no one in John is just the Jews, and adopt a really odd dispensational view of Christ's words in general then,

Whoa! Let me stop you there. I'm not attempting to say that this only applies to the Jews. I believe everyone must be drawn. How will they believe unless they hear? My point was that his audience wasn't able to hear because they were being judicially hardened (John 12:39-41), not because they were born that way. I think this may be where Calvinists have erred. They apply the temporary hardened condition of the Jews to the condition of all men from birth. That is a mistake. There is good reason to believe the Jews of Christ day were being prevented from believing the gospel. Just read Mark 4 and you will see that made very clear. He hides the secrets from them in parables so that they can't come to faith. (How does that fit with Total Depravity?) He send them a "spirit of stupor" so they remain blind. (Rm. 11) But this is not a universal condition for all mankind. God is not attempting to blind all of us from birth. God is doing this temporarily for a greater good.

At least that is the way I read it now. I admit I'm still learning.


Furthermore, we see from 2 Thes and Rom 9 that God has mercy upon and hardens Gentiles as well, not just the Jews during the time of Christ.

Oh, I totally agree. He didn't want alot of people coming to faith while here on earth, otherwise they wouldn't have killed him. But as Romans 11 explains "he bound all men over to disobedience so as to have mercy on the all." In other words, he hardened in order to show mercy.

2. You quoted the citation from the end of Acts. That's well after Christ has left and commissioned the Apostles. Why is God still hardening if that is only a post-cross thing?

Hopefully I already answer that above. The ingrafting of the Gentiles into the Church

3. The "all men to myself" is centered around the word "all." Others can take it differently even if it means "all without exception,"

I'm fine interpreting it to mean "all peoples" or "all kinds" from both Jew and Gentiles, becaus that fits perfectly with my explaination of the Jews condition of being hardened from the gospel.

1. You keep saying that faith is given but then postulate some other "faith" … Arminians believe that one rejects the gift of salvation by not having faith. They don't believe that one rejects the gift of faith.

I wont speak for all Arminians, but I think they believe anyone has the capacity to place their faith in anyone they choose. We all have faith in something and/or someone. Saving faith is that which is placed in Christ. Another may place their or hope in Budda or some other diety. The point is we all have the capacity to believe in someone for our eternal salvation, why not Christ once we hear the convincing message of the gospel? Is there any clear passage which teaches men cant believe the gospels message unto salvation? That is what I feel is lacking in the Calvinistic system. Understand?

I dont ever remember speaking of two faiths and Im not aware of anyone who does. Maybe I wasnt clear?


2. Faith is said to be a work in John 6:28-29 and it states that believing in the Son is the work OF GOD

Before I became a Calvinist I always took that passage to mean that faith was the work OF GOD for us to accomplish, not that God does the believing for us, but that God sends the message necessary for us to hear and believe it. So, in contrast to the OT law as being the works of God for us, faith is the only requirement or condition to be fulfilled. Is there any passage that says this condition cannot be met once confronted by the gospel?


3. Everyone believes that the Gospel is the means through which God draws, and regeration is seen as LOGICALLY preceding faith, not necessarily "CHRONOLOGICALLY" as you seem to be indicating here, but the Gospel cannot be the drawing in John 6 if all who are drawn are saved.

It never says that all who are drawn will certainly be saved. It just says that one must be drawn in order to come to Christ. It does say that all the father gives to the son will come to him and he will not cast any of them out. Most Arminians argue that it is believers that are given to son based upon the following verse which says, 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life.” I have yet to see any reason to believe that everyone who sees or hears of Christ could not also place their faith in Him.


That would be saying that all who have the Gospel preached to them will be saved.

Actually it would just be saying that all who have the gospel preached to them could be saved. It would enable them to believe. You must remember that Jesus audience wasnt hearing the gospel. They were being hardened so that they were unable to really hear and understand Jesus words. As I explained Mark 4 we are told that Christ was purposefully hiding the secrets of the kingdom from them in parables so they couldnt come to repentance. This seems to indicate the gospel clearly taught without any impeding might lead anyone who hears it to faith and repentance. Paul also tells us in Romans 11 that the Jews had been sent a spirit of stupor for a time so as to blind them from the truth. This too implies that had they not been blinded in this manner that they might have come to faith. Christ didnt want them to come to faith at that time. If they had who would have crucified Him? That is why the temporary judicial hardening of Israel was necessary. Of course this seems objectionable also and this the actual objection I believe Paul is responding to in Romans 9, not the objection raised by the Arminians.


4. I'm not sure how you would explain that Rom 3 says that there is not even one man who is good?

Yet, we hear throughout the OT that men like Abraham, Enoch, Job and Noah were blameless and found favor with God. Were they righteous men? Yes and No. According to the high demands of the law, no they are not righteous. They have all sinned and all fall short of Gods glory. So, how is it that they are referred to as being blameless and righteous in Gods sight? FAITH Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, Paul said. Im not arguing any of us are good enough to gain righteousness through the law, Im arguing that any of us can believe the gospel unto salvation. There is a difference.

thanks again, Leighton, I think this discussion is helpful for all of us to work things out.

I cant agree more. I appreciate your demeanor and your sweet spirit. Its proof that two brothers can disagree on a matter of doctrine without disobeying Gods clear command for us to love one another. There may be some things about scripture that are unclear, but that is not one of them. You will know them by their love for each other.

In Him,
LF

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Jon, great information. Thanks (my comments in bold)

Fun for trivia, I guess. So, Leighton, within classical Calvinism it is definitely meaningful to talk about regeneration following faith in a meaningful sense. Great question.

This is one of the reasons I pursued this study. The more I read from Calvin and some of the more "classical Calvinists" the less I saw of my understanding of regeneration and faith. Doesn't Dagg also place regeneration after faith? It seems as if he places an effectual call, or work of the Spirit, prior to faith but allows for regeneration to flow from faith, as Calvin seems to explain. Why do suppose that has changed with more modern views of Calvinism?

By the way, I would say that my acceptance of the truth of Calvinism is because of the grace of God alone. My proper perception of any truth comes from the mercy of God (I hope you believe the same, unless you are just plain smarter or more spiritual than those with whom you disagree). I've answered your question plainly. If you would, could you please plainly answer my question: "If grace was not DETERMINATIVE, then what caused you to exercise your faith in God's grace while another rejected? Your better use of God's grace, otherwise known as faith, was caused by __________?" I really want to know, since you resist grace alone.

I already told you. My answer is the same as yours. You coming to understand and accept Calvinistic "truth" was caused by _________? Fill in the blank and you will have your answer. ;-)

Sorry, I don't mean to be difficult, but that is the only way I know to get this answer through to Calvinistic thinkers (if you can't tell, I've been asked this question before). What you don't realize (but what I'm hoping to point out by reversing the question) is that by asking this question you using a debate fallacy called "circular argumentation" or "begging the question."

Please allow me to explain. You must realize that the drive to explain a free choice in the sense of "what caused it" is question begging, for it assumes that a deterministic explanation is required.  From the indeterminist perspective the choice between available options is what free will is all about and it is finally mysterious, beyond full explanation, for full explanations presuppose the very determinism the libertarian rejects. Understand?

Arminians or "indeterminists" don't assume casual determinism, as you do, so to assume it by asking "what is the cause," is begging the question. I hope that makes sense. It is difficult to explain which is why I appeal to reversing the question to you.

This can get quite philosophical if you let it.

Leighton Flowers said...

Jon,

Sorry, too many John's and I got confused and miss this comment of yours:

"By the way, I would say that my acceptance of the truth of Calvinism is because of the grace of God alone"

So, those non-Calvinistic believers such as John Wesley didn't receive this "grace" that you apparently received, correct? Why not? What have you received that they have not? Have not both been reborn and indwelled by the same Spirit? Are both not "free" in Christ?

Futhermore, why did God choose to grant you this knowledge and not some others? Could God have chosen to do otherwise? In other words, was God free to give you the grace by which to accept Calvinism or withhold it from you? If so, what caused him to choose to give it to you instead of another?

Jon D said...

Thanks for the reply, Leighton.

So, as I understand it, you are saying that your choice to make a better use of God's grace (faith) than an unbeliever was caused by nothing. I must ask you, then, where in all of the world do we see any effect that is caused by nothing? Indeed, the very definition of an effect is that it is the product of a cause. There is only one who is incontingent and that is God. To say that your faith had no determinative cause is literally incoherent.

And further, if, for an action to be free it must be uncaused, then how can you even begin to talk about concepts of responsibility. Responsibility assumes that you were caused by your motives. People are taken to court where they assess the motives or the causes of a crime to ascertain whether or not one will be held culpable. I'm sure you've read Edwards' utter dismantling of libertarian free-will in The Freedom of the Will. I'm sure others in here will be able to make a much better demonstration of libertarian free will than I can.

Surely, you are aware that Genesis 50:20 militates against a libertarian free will while preserving responsibility. How do you deal with a text like Acts 4:27-28 where men are held responsible, yet they doing exactly what God's "power and will had decided beforehand should happen"?

According to the Biblical picture of responsibility, men are held responsible for sin if they willingly commit it. That's it. There doesn't have to be any kind of Kantian idea of "ought implies can." Though Joseph's brothers, in a sense, couldn't contradict God's active intention in the sin against Joseph, the fact of their willingness was what made them guilty.

More Revelation 17:15-18 reads:

15 Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled.

How, in your system, will God be able to hold these people responsible for their collaboration with the beast?

There are so many incredible problems squaring Scripture with libertarian free will that I don't even think it's feasible begin listing here.

Help?

Jon

Jon D said...

Leighton,

I assume, then, that believe that you have come to your theological positions because you are inherently smarter (harder worker, more spiritual, etc.) than those with whom you disagree. Or maybe you can again attribute your position to nothing? Do you ever thank God that He has revealed a truth of Scripture to you that others, though they search the Scripture, have not found?

I don't know why He would choose to give me an ability to, I believe, submit to this particular truth while other Christians won't submit. It certainly isn't because of anything that I can boast about. Correct, John Wesley was not illuminated to the doctrines of grace while I was.

Yes, God was free to give or withold the grace of revealing the doctrines of grace to me. Nothing in me caused God to give me this grace. I have never once denied this and I assume nobody else here would boast that they have some inherent quality that caused God to notice them and grant knowledge to them. Even the will to know God more is given by God, Himself.

Please clarify these exciting issues for me. I enjoy our conversation, my friend!

Jon

Leighton Flowers said...

Jon, I am going to begin with your second post because I believe I can address most of the issues introduced by the first, but if you want to go back and address something specifically, we can do that too. (as always my comments are in bold.)

I assume, then, that believe that you have come to your theological positions because you are inherently smarter (harder worker, more spiritual, etc.) than those with whom you disagree. Or maybe you can again attribute your position to nothing? Do you ever thank God that He has revealed a truth of Scripture to you that others, though they search the Scripture, have not found?

I am responsible for my moral choices, meaning I am "response able," or "able to respond." When confronted with the revelation of scripture I am able to reason and draw conclusions based upon what I have read and am held accountable for that because God has supplied everything that I need. If there is a failing in my understanding of scripture it is not due to God's lack of provision, as it would be in your system, it is only due to my sin. So, when I read God's revelation and understand it correctly God receives the credit because he provided what I needed to understand it, but when I read God's revelation and fail to understand it I don't blame it on God's failure to provide me some measure of grace that he has provided others, as you are forced to do in your system.

I don't know why He would choose to give me an ability to, I believe, submit to this particular truth while other Christians won't submit. It certainly isn't because of anything that I can boast about. Correct, John Wesley was not illuminated to the doctrines of grace while I was.

Think about it, if you are correct John Wesley can simply say to God, "Sorry God, you didn't give me the grace I needed to understand biblical truth, what could I do?" On the other hand, if Wesley is correct the only response you have is, "Sorry God, I sinned. I made a mistake and misinterpreted your word. You gave me everything I needed but I failed." You are completely culpable for your failings. God provided what was needed, but you failed.

Yes, God was free to give or withold the grace of revealing the doctrines of grace to me. Nothing in me caused God to give me this grace. I have never once denied this and I assume nobody else here would boast that they have some inherent quality that caused God to notice them and grant knowledge to them. Even the will to know God more is given by God, Himself.



Your objection to indeterminism here and in your other post overlooks the important fact that indeterminists themselves recognize limitations on the scope of the exercise of free will.  That is, indeterminists generally recognize that genuinely free choices (as indeterminists define free choices; i.e., as those choices reflecting a categorical ability to have chosen otherwise) represent only a portion of the choices made by free agents.  Many choices are largely or perhaps completely conditioned by one's character and environment.  Our present moral choices are being largely conditioned by the character that we have developed on the basis of numerous repeated past choices. This, of course, is very complex and mysterious indeed. I believe it is beyond our full comprehension, but I brought up God's freedom for a good reason.

If your assertion that every act requires a determinitive cause were correct, then God would not be able to act freely either.  For there is no causally sufficient condition beyond his will for his choices.  But you admit God can act freely.  Therefore, your view seems inconsistent.  Granting that freedom means the same thing in each case, he must either admit that God's acts are not free or else that our free actions, like God's, are self-determined.

Notice I did say "self-determined" and not undetermined. If you ask, "What cause the agent to act?" and I answer, "The agent," I know that answer will not satisfy you. Why? Because as I explained you are begging the question by assuming that a determinitive explaination is required, which is the very point in contention. A point that has been refuted on the basis that if God's will is free then there is nothing which could prevent God from choosing to create other free agents. That is not to say there are not influential factors or even in some instances casual factors which can affect men's choices. It is just to say that the will is contra-casually free and thus undetermined by anything or anyone but itself.



Please clarify these exciting issues for me. I enjoy our conversation, my friend!

I don't know how clear I was, but I agree these issues are exciting to discuss and it is a joy to discuss them with a brother in Christ who doesn't need to resort to ad homenim. Blessings to you!

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,

Let me try to confine my words to just a couple of things---otherwise we're going to be writing a book the size of War and Peace. :)

Could you tell me in your view, that if the hardening is only for the purposes of
A. Christ to be crucified
B. For the Gentiles to be brought into the church and
C. To ultimately bring the Jews to salvation (I'm still not sure how you can think Rom 9 and 11 are talking about the same individuals if the Gentiles have not yet been grafted in during Paul's day, but the Jews have been hardened in Paul's day---which was supposedly the reason for the hardening),

then why does He harden Gentiles in 2 Thes 2:8-12? Note also in the passage that they don't believe anyway, so why would God need to harden them? This is consistent with what I said about the hardening before. Even without hardening they do not believe the Gospel. He then hardens them as a judgment upon them so that they believe what is false and are damned (so it is not for the purpose of having mercy on these same individuals). So the hardening is not from birth (I agree with you). It is a judgment of an already existing rebellion. The problem is that according to Rom 1-3 (which teaches that all truth given to us, because of our sin nature, is rebelled against), we all have that already existing rebellion (so He must have mercy on some and draw them and others He does not give mercy, but hardens in judgment instead).

"8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 [that is], the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness."

The second thing I would like to deal with is John 6. You said,

"It never says that all who are drawn will certainly be saved. It just says that one must be drawn in order to come to Christ. It does say that all the father gives to the son will come to him and he will not cast any of them out. Most Arminians argue that it is believers that are given to son based upon the following verse which says, 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life.” I have yet to see any reason to believe that everyone who sees or hears of Christ could not also place their faith in Him."


If the drawing in John 6 always results in salvation of the individual, then do you agree that the drawing cannot be the Gospel itself since not everyone who hears it is saved?
I was surprised to hear you say that the passage does not say that all who are drawn will be definitely saved.

I thought maybe the entire passage cited here might be a good thing (note that Christ says that they have seen Him):

36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of ALL THAT HE HAS GIVEN TO ME I LOSE NOTHING, BUT RAISE IT UP ON THE LAST DAY. 40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day...43 Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 "NO ONE HAS THE POWER TO COME TO ME UNLESS THE FATHER WHO SENT ME DRAWS HIM; AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP ON THE LAST DAY. 45 "It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life."

My take on this, Leighton, is that

1. The Father gives/draws to the Son.
2. He who is drawn/given comes to Christ
3. Christ will not throw him out or lose any of those given to Him.
4. Christ will raise him up on the last day (a reference not to the general resurrection of all men, since that would be meaningless, but to the resurrection of the believer to glorification).

How does the passage not say that all who are drawn will definitely be saved?


The third thing I wanted to mention was that the two verses you gave me both state that it is THROUGH the Gospel/Word that we are brought to life. We all agree with that. The problem is that THROUGH is a means, but you seem to be preposing that it is the source of power itself. So you are not using at means (as I think either John, Jon or Gene pointed out), but as the source of power itself. So our interpretation of these passages is consistent with John 6, but can you make what you are saying about these verses consistent with John 6 if all who are drawn are saved?

Finally, I have to agree with you that men can exercise faith in anyone they wish to. I just think Scripture is clear that they never wish to exercise faith in the true God. It's not that man can't put faith in God because he doesn't have a faith to put in Him, but instead because He does not have the type of faith which includes a love for the one true God. He does not have the power (as Christ said in Jn 6) to believe because he cannot overcome his love for darkness/what is false and his love for evil, which he hides in that falsehood so that he is not exposed (Jn 3). The faith which includes a love for God must be given. It cannot be exercised by fallen man because he does not have it (1 Jn 4:10, 19).

I think there were a few other things, but I think that's already too much than I intended on writing. :)

God be with you as you seek to please Him by looking into the truth of the Scripture. You're definitely helping me do the same with some great questions.

John said...

Hi Leighton,

Your wrote: "I'm arguing that grace saves us through faith."

No argument there. Actually, to be a bit more precise, God says us by grace through faith in Christ.

Sinner > [by grace through faith] > salvation

"Faith is the means and thus faith precedes or is a condition for salvation."

No. Here is the crucial confusion. Does it make any sense to say, I-20 is the means and thus I-20 precedes or is the condition for Birmingham, AL? The destination is our salvation, which in the end will holistically include being completely regenerated (not possible to sin) and having a glorified body. We're not at that destination yet. Those who are regenerated are on the way (through faith). When they've left that "sin city" of Atlanta (I'm feeling like John Bunyon now!) by being regenerated, they were then able to get on the highway to that celestial city Birmingham (and the glorious BBQ it contains!), "through faith." If they hand't been regenerated, they wouldn't be able to make it up the on-ramp of that heavenly highway, I-20.

You: "I believe, based upon the texts I have presented thus far, that regeneration is accomplished through the means of faith as well."

Frankly, you haven't produced any texts that say any such thing and if they did, they would conflict with 1 John 5:1, as defended ably by others (Jon, I think) clearly shows that anyone who has faith has been (past perfect!) regenerated. Further, we've produced numerous scriptures which tell us the person "dead in sin" would never chose to believe anyway, because "every [not just most] inclination [not just conclusions or out-word works] is only [not just mostly] evil [not just tainted] all the time [not just most of the time]." Our hearts, Jeremiah tells us (17:9)without regeneration, are wicked, desperately sick; "who can know it?" That's why all our righteousness is as "filthy rags", including our attempts to believe (i.e. religion) absent God's new life.

You: "Faith is accomplished through the means of hearing God's message. "How will they believe unless they hear?" "Faith comes by hearing."

Yes, your absolutely right. But many hear, with their physical ears, the message and yet don't have real faith. Some hear and scoff? Some hear and shrug their shoulders? Some hear and repeat a prayer thinking they have their "fire insurance" and then don't care anymore. What's the difference between those who hear and truly believe and those who don't? Regeneration. Without being raised from the dead, there will be no faith. I can go to the local cemetary and exclaim, "Rise and walk" and it will be heard only by the birds unless God does the miracle to raise them.

John said...

Hi Leighton,

You wrote: "It is just to say that the will is contra-casually free and thus undetermined by anything or anyone but itself."

Do you realize that this is the heart of the philosophy of Arminianism?

With all due respect, it is also quite absurd. Not only in light of the Bible, which teaches we are either slaves of sin or slaves of God, but in light of sociology, anthropology, biology, etc. No one is really "the captain of their fate."

Leighton Flowers said...

Bristopoly,

:-D

Yes, War and Peace my seem like Cliff Notes if we keep this up. My comments are in bold...

Could you tell me in your view, that if the hardening is only for the purposes of
A. Christ to be crucified
B. For the Gentiles to be brought into the church and
C. To ultimately bring the Jews to salvation (I'm still not sure how you can think Rom 9 and 11 are talking about the same individuals if the Gentiles have not yet been grafted in during Paul's day, but the Jews have been hardened in Paul's day---which was supposedly the reason for the hardening),


A. Yes.
B. Yes.
C. I would phrase this differently: To provoke to envy the Jews so that they might be saved. (Read Romans 10:19 ; 11:14) The Jews could be provoked to envy at any time once the Gentiles began believing and according to verse 23 they might leave their unbelief and be grafted back into the vine.


then why does He harden Gentiles in 2 Thes 2:8-12? Note also in the passage that they don't believe anyway, so why would God need to harden them?

Most scholars recognize that there is a "self-hardening" by which men freely rebell and become stubborn. For example, Pharaoh didn't want to let all his slaves go free. That was his original will without God having to do anything. But once the will is provokes by the plagues this stubbornness might be persuaded. God wanted to ensure Pharaoh would not let the people go too soon because God had something to teach Israel through the Passover. Thus, God interviened and blinded Pharaoh from the plagues which might have convinced him. God could have used various means to hardened Pharaoh, such as his magicians or even a girlfriend whispering in his ear (as seen in the movie Ten Commandments). So, God sealed him in his already stubborn condition until the time was right. This is exactly the same thing God does to Israel. They already were rebellious and had the wrong idea about God and righteousness. God didn't have make them like that. He simply sealed them in that condition by blinding them from anything that might draw them out of that condition (i.e. the gospel, miracles etc). The Gentiles were in a state of "self-hardening" and this was only furthered by the fact that God's special revelations were not given to the Gentiles. This is Paul's point in the last part of Romans 11 when he speaks about God's using the Jews to ingraft the Gentiles and that he hardened both groups so as to show mercy to them all. (vs. 32).

How is hardening someone in their rebellious state merciful? Think about when Paul advised the church in Corinth to cast out the wayward brother so as to save his soul. It is this strict act of discipline in cutting someone off that can provoke them envy. The one disciplined my reason, "I can't go back to that church, they are treating me like a tax collector, how can I get back in?" Its by cutting them off that you might save their soul. Discipline often will provoke the will. That is what God is doing here. He is cutting Israel off, and grafting in the Gentiles who have been cut off from the beginning. He has bound both over to disobedience in order to show mercy to them all.

This is consistent with what I said about the hardening before. Even without hardening they do not believe the Gospel.

Some of them don't. But we have have evidence of some who are "God worshipers" or "God fearers" or those who believe in God but who had yet heard about Christ. (Cornelius, Lydia, several in Acts)


He then hardens them as a judgment upon them so that they believe what is false and are damned (so it is not for the purpose of having mercy on these same individuals). So the hardening is not from birth (I agree with you). It is a judgment of an already existing rebellion.

I agree that it is judgment or discipline of an already exisiting rebellion, but as the verses I pointed out show it is not a judgment unto certain condemnation as if they are not loved and chosen by God, but it is an act of disciple meant to provoke the will with the hope that salvation could come.


The problem is that according to Rom 1-3 (which teaches that all truth given to us, because of our sin nature, is rebelled against), we all have that already existing rebellion (so He must have mercy on some and draw them and others He does not give mercy, but hardens in judgment instead).

Romans 1:1-3:21 tell us of our inability with regard to attaining righteousness through the law, but now a righteousness apart from the law is being revealed which is by grace through faith (vs. 21) and there is no reason to believe that it is not attainable. Afterall, Abraham attained this righteousness through faith. Why couldn't anyone else? No, Abraham didn't fulfill the law. He was a sinner. He was one of those who was "not righteous" in Romans 3:10-11 but in chapter 4 Paul says he was considered righteous because of his faith. Through the law it is not possible, through faith it is.

If the drawing in John 6 always results in salvation of the individual, then do you agree that the drawing cannot be the Gospel itself since not everyone who hears it is saved?

I just explained that the drawing does not always result in the salvation. It only tells us that one must be drawn in order to come to Christ, and those who come will be saved. I don't see anything that tells us the drawing is irresistable in nature.

I thought maybe the entire passage cited here might be a good thing (note that Christ says that they have seen Him):

36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.

Remember. Who is his audience? Hardened Jews. That is not to say the principles of this passage don't apply, its just a reminder of the historical context in which Christ is speaking.

37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

At this time in history, who are the ones who are "coming to him?" The Remnant of Israel, the apostles. Those individually chosen and reserved from the hardening of Israel so as to be trained to be the foundation of the church which is to take the message of Christ to the world.

38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of ALL THAT HE HAS GIVEN TO ME I LOSE NOTHING, BUT RAISE IT UP ON THE LAST DAY. 40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day...

Who is he going to raise up? "Everyone who beholds the Son and believes. But how are they going to behold the Son if they have not seen him or heard of him? How will they believe unless they hear? Only if the chosen remnant of Israel give testimony of the Son for the world to hear can they believe unto salvation. This is the means God has ordained to draw the world to himself. (John 12:32, I also encourage you to read the parable of the banquet in which the invitation being sent out is the means by which all the attendees are drawn.)


43 Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 "NO ONE HAS THE POWER TO COME TO ME UNLESS THE FATHER WHO SENT ME DRAWS HIM; AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP ON THE LAST DAY.

Yes, they must be "given the power" or "enabled" but that doesn't mean they are forced or irresistably drawn. It just means that those who hear may believe as mentioned in verse 40

45 "It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life."

Some people might "hear" from the father but not "learn from the father," this implies an acceptance of what has been taught, not merely one in ear shot of the teaching.

The third thing I wanted to mention was that the two verses you gave me both state that it is THROUGH the Gospel/Word that we are brought to life. We all agree with that. The problem is that THROUGH is a means, but you seem to be preposing that it is the source of power itself.

Well Paul does call the gospel the power of God unto salvation. And there are many verses which speak of the the power of God's word and truth. Why do you suppose someone can come to faith in Alla through the simple reading or proclaimation of the Koran, which we know has no power or truth, but cannot come to faith in Christ through the gospel? No one would believe that unless it is specifically taught, and I have yet to find it.

Finally, I have to agree with you that men can exercise faith in anyone they wish to. I just think Scripture is clear that they never wish to exercise faith in the true God. It's not that man can't put faith in God because he doesn't have a faith to put in Him, but instead because He does not have the type of faith which includes a love for the one true God. He does not have the power (as Christ said in Jn 6) to believe because he cannot overcome his love for darkness/

But don't you see that the audience in John 6 is not unable to believe because of their natural condition, but because God is hiding the gospel from them in parables (Mk 4) and hardening them from the truth (John 12:39-41) which is a temporary and unique condition (Rm. 11:26) not a universal condition of all men (Acts 28:28)

God be with you as you seek to please Him by looking into the truth of the Scripture. You're definitely helping me do the same with some great questions.

The feeling is mutual. Thanks brother!

Jeff Jones said...

(Moved from Caner Update #2)

Leighton,

You said,

could you show me the text where righteousness by grace through faith is equally unattainable? It think that may just be where Calvinists err.

Actually, Romans 8:7-8 does just that. I will illustrate by answering your argument about the law.

1. Paul’s reference to God’s law is an illustrative one – illustrative of the deeper principle he is making here: that one in the flesh is hostile to God. The evidence of this is that he cannot submit to God’s Law. Now, even if I were to concede that the reference to the Law cannot be applied to the Gospel (which I don’t), then you would still be stuck. After all, this person is still “hostile to God,” and “cannot please God.” Is believing a mark of hostility? Is coming to faith not something that pleases God? You haven’t answered these deeper issues, choosing to focus instead on how Paul illustrated these deep issues.

You said,

Could that be because you have failed to recongize the clear distinction between the law and the gospel? I think that has been made clear.

2. Far from it. You are drawing a hard distinction between law and Gospel that is untenable. First, you fail to see that the Gospel is indeed a command of God, not an Arminian buffet-type “offer”. Furthermore, it is a command for all mankind, not just for believers or the elect. A command that is universally applicable, from the mouth of God, can fairly be described as “God’s Law.” The only way you could reject the characterization of the Gospel as a law of God would be to adopt Hyper-Calvinism and reject the universal applicability of the command of the Gospel.

3. Paul himself uses “law” in different ways, and not always describing the Mosaic Law (Romans 2:14, Romans 3:27, Romans 7:23, 1 Corinthians 6:1).

You said,

I do not equate God's law and the gospel. Neither does Paul.

4. Actually, you’re wrong. Not only does Paul use the term “law” flexibly, but he contrasts the Mosaic Law with the “Law of faith” by which we are saved – the Gospel message of grace through faith:

27Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:27-28)

5. Furthermore, Paul makes such a contrast in the very passage I cited:

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 8:2 speaks of the law of the Spirit, and the law of sin and death. Romans 8:3 implies the Mosaic Law. 8:7 speaks simply of God’s Law. Now I ask you: is the Law of the Spirit of life that sets us free God’s Law?

If it isn’t, the consequences are terrible. If it is, your argument is shown to be a red herring, and man in his natural state is shown to be naturally hostile to the law of life – the Gospel.

My point not only stands, but is strengthened.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi John,

No. Here is the crucial confusion. Does it make any sense to say, I-20 is the means and thus I-20 precedes or is the condition for Birmingham, AL?

It makes perfect sense. You don't get to Biringham unless you first go through I-20. You don't get to salvation unless you first believe. I'm not sure what the confusion is here?

... If they hand't been regenerated, they wouldn't be able to make it up the on-ramp of that heavenly highway, I-20.

I understand the analogy and I understand that you believe regeneration precedes faith, but even some Calvinist, even Calvin himself (according to the quote Jon provided) didn't teach this. I also think I remember that Dagg didn't teach this either. I don't need anymore analogies, because I understand what you believe, what I'm looking for now is biblical support. So far you gave me 1 John 5:1, which I just don't believe is very convincing in light of so many other verses and the general understanding of scripture.

Frankly, you haven't produced any texts that say any such thing and if they did, they would conflict with 1 John 5:1, as defended ably by others (Jon, I think) clearly shows that anyone who has faith has been (past perfect!) regenerated.

Consider this verse in John 6: "He who believes in Me has everlasting life." This is the same contruction as I John 5:1 yet scripture clearly shows us that eternal life is given through faith in other texts. This, like 1 John 5:1, just seems to be saying that those who believe are born again and have eternal life. No order is even expressed. It is the passages which speak of these things being accomplished "through faith" that give us certainity that faith is the means for new life/birth in Christ (i.e. regeneration)

Further, we've produced numerous scriptures which tell us the person "dead in sin" would never chose to believe anyway, because "every [not just most] inclination [not just conclusions or out-word works] is only [not just mostly] evil [not just tainted] all the time [not just most of the time]."

Did you miss my response to the Genesis passage where I point out that Noah and his family were seen by God as blameless? Can you interact with that?

Our hearts, Jeremiah tells us (17:9)without regeneration, are wicked, desperately sick; "who can know it?" That's why all our righteousness is as "filthy rags", including our attempts to believe (i.e. religion) absent God's new life.

And through what means are our hearts purified? Through faith according to the passage in Acts. I agree that we are born in bondage, I just believe scripture when it says that the truth can set you free. Why would anyone assume it couldn't?

Yes, your absolutely right. But many hear, with their physical ears, the message and yet don't have real faith. Some hear and scoff? Some hear and shrug their shoulders? Some hear and repeat a prayer thinking they have their "fire insurance" and then don't care anymore. What's the difference between those who hear and truly believe and those who don't? Regeneration.

Says who? Couldn't the difference just be the individual himself making a choice? Your system places the culpability back on God because those who scoff do so because God has failed to provide them something that was needed. This gives lost men a perfect excuse on judgement day. They can't say (as Romans 1 says) that they clearly saw and understood divine revelation but refused it, but they must say, "I didn't see or understand and couldn't have done otherwise." I believe God has provide all that is needed to be reconciled to him and anyone who scoffs does so despite God's provision not because of God's lack of provision.

You wrote: "It is just to say that the will is contra-casually free and thus undetermined by anything or anyone but itself."

Do you realize that this is the heart of the philosophy of Arminianism?

Yes. Though I'm not completely "sold" on it, I'm beginning to see why so many left Calvinism and converted to an Arminian way of thinking in those days. I don't find Calvinism really aligns with what I read in scripture. Its not that I think Calvinism is not possible or makes God a bad person, I'm just starting to believe it is supported in the scripture.

With all due respect, it is also quite absurd. Not only in light of the Bible, which teaches we are either slaves of sin or slaves of God,

Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey--either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? Rom. 6:16

Who does the offering? We do. Plus, as "slaves of God" do we not still choose to rebell at times and sin? If we are able as slave of God to sin, why wouldn't we as "slaves to sin" be able to repent?

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Jeff,

LF: could you show me the text where righteousness by grace through faith is equally unattainable? It think that may just be where Calvinists err.

Jeff: Actually, Romans 8:7-8 does just that. I will illustrate by answering your argument about the law.

1. Paul’s reference to God’s law is an illustrative one – illustrative of the deeper principle he is making here: that one in the flesh is hostile to God. The evidence of this is that he cannot submit to God’s Law. Now, even if I were to concede that the reference to the Law cannot be applied to the Gospel (which I don’t), then you would still be stuck. After all, this person is still “hostile to God,” and “cannot please God.” Is believing a mark of hostility? Is coming to faith not something that pleases God? You haven’t answered these deeper issues, choosing to focus instead on how Paul illustrated these deep issues.

Believing unto repentance is a response to a message of reconcilation. Without that message of reconcilation, no there would be ONLY HOSTILITY, but we are addressing men's ability to respond to God ministry and message sent for the purpose of reconciling the world to himself, why would you assume it doesn't have the ability to do so?

Let's look at the construction of this verse Jeff. I think you are resting way too much on it. "So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Suppose you had a son living in rebellion and you said to him, "So then, you who are in rebellion cannot please me." Would this imply, much less explicitly explain to your son that he is unable to leave his rebellion and please you, or would it simply mean that he cannot please you as long has he choose to remain in rebellion. If I wanted my child to get out of the kitchen and said, "While you are in the kitchen you cannot please me." Does that in away suggest the child cannot leave the kitchen? Of course not. It only tells us that the one who remains in the kitchen will not please me. In the same manner this verse tells us that those who act in carnality cannot please God. Even we as beleivers will not please God if we act in the flesh. Only when we act according to faith will we please God. Nothing in this verse even suggests we cannot leave the flesh and walk in faith, no more so than the phrase I wrote would prevent my child from leaving the kitchen.


2. Far from it. You are drawing a hard distinction between law and Gospel that is untenable. First, you fail to see that the Gospel is indeed a command of God, not an Arminian buffet-type “offer”. Furthermore, it is a command for all mankind, not just for believers or the elect. A command that is universally applicable, from the mouth of God, can fairly be described as “God’s Law.” The only way you could reject the characterization of the Gospel as a law of God would be to adopt Hyper-Calvinism and reject the universal applicability of the command of the Gospel.

I'm only refering to the way Paul distiguishes the law from the gospel. Romans 3:21 where Paul speaks of a righteousness now being revealed APART FROM THE LAW. How would you explain the fact that in Romans 3:10-11 Paul states no one is righteous not not one, but in the very next chapter claims Abraham is righteous? Righteousness pursued through works is not attainable, righteousness through faith is. I'm not denying that there is a sense of "command" or "appeal" involved in the gospel's call to repentance and faith. My only point is to show the distinction drawn by Paul himself. Attaining righteousness through attempting to keep the Law is not possible, but who ever tells us that believing in and submitting ourselves to the one who did fulfill the law for us is equally unattainable? I just seems to me that faith in Christ is the solution for the dilemma of our unrighteousness and Calvinists are telling me that that the solution is equally unattainable. I just don't see that ever taught in scripture.

I have to run now, but I'll stop in again later. Blessing to you brother.

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,

I think this is the crux here in John 6.

"If the drawing in John 6 always results in salvation of the individual, then do you agree that the drawing cannot be the Gospel itself since not everyone who hears it is saved?

I just explained that the drawing does not always result in the salvation. It only tells us that one must be drawn in order to come to Christ, and those who come will be saved. I don't see anything that tells us the drawing is irresistable in nature."

I think you are reading this through the lense of Arminian theology already adopted. The reason I say that is that you seem to be adding conditionals onto the sentences in order to get it to say what you want it to say.

For instance, when the text says:

"All that the Father gives to Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day," you are adding "out of" to all. "Out of the people that the Father gives me, i.e., those who believe once drawn, I will raise up on the last day.

That's a lot of words to add and I agree that if the text stated all that, it would not be definite that all the father draws come to Him and are raised up. The problem is that that is exactly what the text says: ALL that the Father gives to Me, I lose nothing/comes to Me and I will raise it up on the last day.

You seem to be saying that Some of whom the Father gives to Me will come to Me and I will raise him up on the last day. Notice that the word "some" is replacing "all." You would then flip the passage on its head because Christ would be losing some when they don't believe. He wouldn't lose any who believe, but that is not what the passage says. It says that ALL the Father gives to me I LOSE NOTHING. So the text explicitly states that EVERY SINGLE THING the Father gives to the Son WILL NOT BE LOST. NOT ONE. NOTHING. And who is the nothing, not just out of those who believe (we all agree that those who are drawn believe), but this statement is NOTHING will be lost from ALL that the Father gives.

So
1. Not everyone can come to the Son unless He is drawn/given by the Father
2. ALL who are given will come/believe in the Son
3. He does not lose a single one of the ALL who are given
4. And He will raise the all who are given, who He does not lose a single one of the ALL who are given, up on the last day (resurrection to glorification---final state of salvation).

So once again, I think you are missing what this passage is saying because you are adding words to it and not paying close attention to its own wording in order to fit it into what you think the Bible teaches about faith and regeneration. The problem is that this is what the Bible teaches about faith and regeneration.

I would also like to chime in on 1 Jn again because I think something important is going on. I think you may not know Greek by the words you've spoken on that. The order actually is set by the Greek. The perfect tense "has been born of God" is a stative aspect in Greek. What it is describing here is that state that the person is in already. The acts that person does in John, as Gene also pointed out, are produced by the state (so they are not in the perfect, but usually in the present/continuous aspect). In other words the perfect is employed to describe the being/ontology of the person and the other tenses (usually the present) is employed to describe the actions which are produced by such a person. So a person who has been born of God already produces faith/belief in Jesus Christ, love for God and for the brethren, righteousness, etc. That's not just a little verse in 1 Jn. That's the bulk of the letter. This is consistent with John's emphasis on the theocentric aspect of salvation.

Along those lines then, can you also explain to me this verse:

"John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood NOR OF THE WILL FROM THE FLESH NOR FROM THE WILL OF MAN, but FROM GOD.

Now if we must exercise faith on our own as God gives us grace to do so, then the verse should not negate that. It should read "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but from the will of man and from God working together. Instead, it states that it is not from the will of man at all. So man needs a change of will and this must come from being born of God in order to receive Him. If they received Him because of their will being able to do so, then this verse is wrong.

That's all for now. I have to help my wife clean up the yard and I think I'm probably trying her patience as it is.:) Thanks again, my friend. I have a question to ask you later when i get the chance as well. God bless.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi bristopoly,

You wrote: I think you are reading this through the lense of Arminian theology already adopted. The reason I say that is that you seem to be adding conditionals onto the sentences in order to get it to say what you want it to say.

For instance, when the text says:

"All that the Father gives to Me I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day," you are adding "out of" to all. "Out of the people that the Father gives me, i.e., those who believe once drawn, I will raise up on the last day.

It sounds like you are purposefully making this complicated in order to make it seem far fetched. And after reading your entire post I wonder if you really understand the "Arminian" interpretation of this text. I don't know of anyone who would define it in the way you have. Why does "out of" need to be added? Whosoever has faith is given to Christ and he loses none of those given. This is the easiest and most general way to understand this verse.

However, you could also consider Christ's audience as I pointed out earlier and understand that those "given to Christ by the father" could be a more specific reference to the remnant of Israel who were reserved from the hardening process (i.e. the apostles). In John 17 the apostles were also spoken of as being given to Christ. Afterall they had a special role and were specifically chosen for that purpose. Either way there is nothing here which explicitly teaches any type of irresistable call.


I would also like to chime in on 1 Jn again because I think something important is going on. I think you may not know Greek by the words you've spoken

I am no expert, but I've taken couple of years of Greek and I married a Greek tutor, but more importantly I rely heavily on other scholars and as I'm sure you know there is no shortage of opinions on the subject.

What do you think about the verse in John 6 which says "he who believes in Me has eternal life." Do you think that explicitly means eternal life is given prior to faith even in light of other text which speak of eternal life accomplished through faith?


"John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood NOR OF THE WILL FROM THE FLESH NOR FROM THE WILL OF MAN, but FROM GOD.

The answer can be seen in the first line, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God." You would have us believe that one is born again prior to receiving Him, but this text clearly shows that we are not even given the right to become a child of God until we receive him. We all believe that we are regenerated by God and not by husbands or father will or by our own power. Being brought to life through faith doesn't mean we bring ourselves to life, God does it, the means through which it is done is through faith. That is the condition for salvation. I don't see this saying much more than that.


That's all for now. I have to help my wife clean up the yard and I think I'm probably trying her patience as it is.:) Thanks again, my friend. I have a question to ask you later when i get the chance as well. God bless.

I understand completely. I get dirty looks occasionally when our three kids are running amuck and I'm typing on the computer. We'll talk later, now get that yard work done!

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Jeff, I wanted to finish up commenting on your post...

4. Actually, you’re wrong. Not only does Paul use the term “law” flexibly, but he contrasts the Mosaic Law with the “Law of faith” by which we are saved – the Gospel message of grace through faith:

27Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:27-28)

Jeff, please understand that I'm not attempting to separate faith from the term "law" completely, I'm simply attempting to distinguish between men's ability in attaining righteousness (i.e. "pleasing God") through the "law of faith" as apposted to the "law of works." Thank you for quoting this verse because it makes that distinction quite nicely. We are justified through faith, which is attainable, not through the law (works) which is not. That is my only point. You have found texts which tell us we are not righteous nor can we ever be according to the law of works. Now can you find us any passage which indicates we are unable to believe in the one who fulfilled that law for us? Romans 8:7 doesn't even come close to doing that unless you assume something that is not explictly stated.

Think about this. Abraham was righteous, right? Yet, scripture says, "no one is righteous not even one?" How can that be? Paul is clearly addressing two differing ways of attaining righteousness. Through works and through faith. The former being impossible and the latter being possible. How do we know? Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Faith is attainable by men. Paul proved it by using Abraham as an example. Where does it indicate anywhere in scripture that this same means of righteousness, like that of Abraham, is not within anyone's capacity? You keep referring to texts which indicate that righteousness through the law isn't attainable, but nothing which even mentions faith or the gospel. You point is still weak in my opinion.

Jeff Jones said...

Hi Leighton,

You said:

we are addressing men's ability to respond to God ministry and message sent for the purpose of reconciling the world to himself, why would you assume it doesn't have the ability to do so?

Why would you assume he does, seeing that the New Testament consistently describes the state of natural man as being "dead in his sins" or "enslaved"? The issue of a command does not necessarily imply that the person commanded has the ability to comply.

Especially given the hostility mentioned here! The sinful man is enslaved to his sin. He loves his sin. It is an integral part of his nature. And he hates God, hates the things of the Spirit. How would this pervasive hostility allow a person to even consider and accept the message? The description of the man in the flesh as hostile poses serious problems for your view, because you then have to assume that this person can then (on his own, in the flesh) suspend his hostility toward God long enough and effectively enough to be able to objectively and receptively consider and accept the Gospel message. (As an aside, wouldn't this please God? Isn't self-control a fruit of the Spirit?)

That's a big assumption, and it's one you're hauling lock, stock, and barrel into your argument.

See, the verse says the man in the flesh is unable to please God. If faith is what brings about regeneration, then the person who hears and accepts the Gospel is still "in the flesh" until that message is accepted.

Breaking it down further: the person hears the message in the flesh. The person understands the message in the flesh (contra 1 Cor 2:14). The person weighs and considers the message in the flesh. The person recognizes the true path while still in the flesh. Finally, the person in the flesh chooses to submit to Christ and repents. At that point, in the synergistic scheme, he is regenerated and receives the Holy Spirit. All of these actions - part and parcel of being persuaded - are performed by a person in the flesh.

And all of these actions please God, don't they? Is he displeased when the Gospel is heard or understood or considered or accepted or acted upon?

See, I think it takes a pre-existing commitment to the idea of a living, responsive human being to see what you are stating in this passage. It's a presupposition you're imposing on the text.

Let me use your example to demonstrate. You said:

If I wanted my child to get out of the kitchen and said, "While you are in the kitchen you cannot please me." Does that in away suggest the child cannot leave the kitchen? Of course not.

The child hears you speaking in the kitchen - itself an assumption not supported by this verse. The child has the self-control and respect for you to stop screaming, suspend his hostility, and hear you out while standing in the kitchen. He considers his options while still in the kitchen. Then he decides that you are right and you are still to be obeyed - while still in the kitchen. He begins walking toward the kitchen door - not out of the kitchen yet.

Would not you be pleased by any of these actions as they happened? If so, the child, in the kitchen, can please you.

Or, put another way: Romans 8:8 would, in your view, say this: "Those children in the kitchen cannot please Father." Well, actually, they can - they can hear and obey, and take the steps to leave the kitchen. All while still in the kitchen.

In short, your example basically says: "Those in the flesh can actually please God, if they hear and obey and get themselves out of the flesh."

With this in mind, what role does regeneration play in your view? Why is it called a new birth - who ever heard of a child initiating his own birth? Why is the Spirit necessary to please God in anything, if the most crucial decision we make does not require His prior work to regenerate us?

I simply see no need for regeneration at all in your view, to be frank.

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,

Just a few quick notes.

"Why does "out of" need to be added? Whosoever has faith is given to Christ and he loses none of those given. This is the easiest and most general way to understand this verse."

Your right that if you change the order you don't have to place words in, but you are changing the order. You are saying that those who believe are then given to the Son and those given then are saved. That is not what the text says though. The text says that no one can come/believe if the Father does not draw/give him first. The coming in the order of this text is not after or simultaneous with the giving. It is after the giving. Let's look at it for a moment:

"No one can come to Me unless/if not/except the Father who sent Me draws him;"

So take the first part "No one can come to Me." No one can come. Are the able to come/believe before being given? The text says no. What is the exception to the no one? If someone is drawn/given by the Father, then they can come. There coming is dependent upon the Father giving. Therefore coming cannot precede drawing/giving, but in order to support the interpretation given to it, one must have the giving as a result of the coming instead of vice versa. Do you admit here that if the coming is the result of the giving/drawing, and not the other way around, then the I and the P (as well as some of the U since this would mean that not everyone is drawn/given for some reason) are established by this text?
So what is the reason that the anyone within the "no one" can come/believe/exercise faith? If the Father draws/gives him. Then he can do it. The drawing/giving must precede. I just can't buy into the Arminian rearranging of the text---and really a refusal to let its logic speak (if the Father does not do A [draw/give], then no one can do B [come/believe]. So the Father is not giving people because they come. They can't come unless He draws them first. And ALL that the Father gives/draws, comes and is saved/raised up on the last day. Not one of those who are drawn/given are lost.
I don't know why no one would take the text that way. I'm just summarizing it. I'm pretty sure most reformed scholars would take it that way. What scholars are you referring to who see it otherwise?

Now, Leighton, you did tell me that you believe that all men must be drawn and that this passage applies to all men, not just the Jews. But you keep going back to that as though it does just apply to the Jews/Apostles. If the "no one...if not" here does not apply to all men, then Jn 14:6 need not apply to all men either. So which one do you believe? Is Jn 6 just about the apostles or is it about all men including the apostles? If it the former, we need to discuss that more. If it is the latter, there is no need to keep bringing that fact up. We all agree who he is talking to. We need to agree about who he is talking about (and why John 60 years later in a mostly Gentile church feels the need to repeat it here for the church he is now leaving).

"He who believes has eternal life" is not a perfect, so its not really the equivalent as the perfects in 1 Jn (I wasn't sure if that was what you were asking or not). But in John, belief is the submissive relationship we have with God through Christ. It is another word he uses for "knowing" God. To know/believe/have a relationship with God is eternal life itself. So he who has a relationship with God has eternal life (because the relationship is the eternal life---I think John was trying to counter a simple notion that eternal life was just about living forever and instead is really about knowing God). So I agree, if you are saying that one does not have eternal life until he has faith because John explicitly teaches that the faith relationship is eternal life. The question we are asking however is how did a person get this relationship? How did they come to this relationship? We can't say faith causes us to acquire the relationship because faith is the relationship. Faith is the relational knowing of God, which is eternal life. It is the type of relationship we have with God. Through this type of relationship we have eternal life.

That got a little more complex than a wanted it to be. Sorry about that. But all that to say, 1. It's not a perfect so we don't now the relationship from just this verse of faith and eternal life, but in the context of Jn 6 we can see that the faith is post-giving of the Father. 2. The larger theology of John to have eternal life is to have faith/a relationship with God. Mind you, I am not saying that "faith" is always used this way in the Bible. It has many uses.

"The answer can be seen in the first line, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God." You would have us believe that one is born again prior to receiving Him, but this text clearly shows that we are not even given the right to become a child of God until we receive him. We all believe that we are regenerated by God and not by husbands or father will or by our own power. Being brought to life through faith doesn't mean we bring ourselves to life, God does it, the means through which it is done is through faith. That is the condition for salvation. I don't see this saying much more than that."

Here is all that this verse says. "To as many as received Him He gave the right to become children of God, that is to those who believe on His name."
I see how you can get that the right to become his children was because they believe on His name. However, the verbs are both Aorist and there is no necessary sequence of events here. Instead, the next phrase tells us by what they were born: "not from the will/desire of man, but from the will/desire of God." So, as you stated as well, God gives the faith. If He has to give it, then that means man does not have it in the first place (remember that I said that he has a faith, but not the right kind that contains a love/desire for the one true God).
To go back to Eph 2 for a moment, I think something was missed there. The faith is given by God. This is not a faith that is mustered up from within the man. It is not God working on a faith the man already has but needs some help with. The text says "AND THIS NOT OF YOURSELVES. IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD..." The faith is not from you. It is not in you. It is not of you. It is given as a gift. So the faith must be given by God in order for someone to believe, and it is not from yourself.

This is where I kind of understood you saying that there were two faiths then. You stated that faith is a gift, but then keep stating that man exercises it on his own. Which is it? I think I finally realized that you might have been saying that faith that is in us is stirred up by God so that we can either accept or reject, but this text indicates that it is not something we had to be stirred up.

I could go on, but I don't just feel like I'm rambling now, I know I am. :) Thanks for your patience, Leighton.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Jeff,

Lf:we are addressing men's ability to respond to God ministry and message sent for the purpose of reconciling the world to himself, why would you assume it doesn't have the ability to do so?

Jeff: Why would you assume he does, seeing that the New Testament consistently describes the state of natural man as being "dead in his sins" or "enslaved"? The issue of a command does not necessarily imply that the person commanded has the ability to comply.

Good question. I don't assume it. Here are reasons I believe the natural man is able to believe the gospel unto salvation.

1. THE UNIVERSAL CALL: The universal call to repentance and faith implies ability (I realize this is not proof, only an implication, but if a strong implication such as this is never met with an explicit counter explaination there is no reason not to believe it)

2. GOD'S REVEALED SOLUTION TO MAN'S BASIC PROBLEM: Men's natural problem from birth sInce the fall of Adam has been that our relationship to God needs reconcilation. I would think that the message that was sent by God for the purpose of bringing reconcilation to the world (words of scripture not mine) would have the ability to accomplish the purpose for which it is sent, unless we are explicitly told otherwise.

3. THE POWER OF THE WORD: The scripture continually tells us the power and effectiveness of God's word. Jesus says, "The words I speak to you are spirit and life." "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation," it is "a doubled edged sword cutting both bone and into the soul," and the scripture "is profitable for rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Why would anyone assume these words of God could not lead a person who is not been judicially hardened to faith? (I could stop here, but there is a few other reasons worth mentioning once again)

4. THE UNIQUENESS OF JUDICIAL HARDENING: Passages such as Acts 28; John 12, Romans 11 and Mark 4 all tells us that had the Israelites not been hardened that they "might have heard and repented...like the Gentiles would." (Acts 28:28) This appears to reveal a unique temporary (Rm. 11:26) condition of Israel at this time, thus revealing the natural condition of the rest of mankind who has not been sent a "spirit of stupor" or who has not had the "secrets of the kingdom hidden in parables." These direct actions of God to seal Israel in their rebellion so as to prevent their faith and repentance seems to be overwhelming evidence that such prevention was necessary and thus these men could not have been born totally unable. Why temporarily blind a man born blind from birth?

5. OTHER IMPLICIT TEXTS OF SCRIPTURE: Texts such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 tell us God desires (I know this is not an expression of sovereign decree so spare the explaination) that all men come to the knowledge of Christ and to salvation. Since God has expressed this desire it seems to make more sense that the gospel's invitation actually makes this possible for all who hear the message. (Again, I'm not claiming this proves anything in and of itself, only the the implication is strong. The same implication is in verses such as John 3:16 and the like which do express a universality of the call and the intended scope of the atonement.

6. The parable of the banqueting table where the king sends out his servants to invite anyone and everyone who will come. Why would we assume that only those chosen to have some secret inward working of regeneration would have responded to that initial invite? And why did the king make his choice based upon the garments (repenting righteousness through faith) if indeed his choice is unconditional? His election to whom he invited was conditioned in the beginning (it went to Israel only) but once they rebelled and turned it down he sent the invitation unconditionally to all men (He elected to invite all unconditionally) and thus many were called. But as you know "few were chosen." And if you read the story it is clear that their was a condition for the choice the king made. So, election, according to this parable, is unconditional in regard to who is invited but conditional in regard to who is chosen for salvation.


Especially given the hostility mentioned here! The sinful man is enslaved to his sin. He loves his sin. It is an integral part of his nature. And he hates God, hates the things of the Spirit. How would this pervasive hostility allow a person to even consider and accept the message? The description of the man in the flesh as hostile poses serious problems for your view, because you then have to assume that this person can then (on his own, in the flesh) suspend his hostility toward God long enough and effectively enough to be able to objectively and receptively consider and accept the Gospel message.

I've already appealed to scripture so now, for a moment, I am going to appeal to experience. I have three children all under the age of 6 and not one of them has expressed hostilty to the message of redemption. Yes, the are certainly selffish little sinners who need reconcilation with God, but they have not grown hardened to the gospel. They are very much open to hearing it and believing it, just as I was growing up in my Christian home. There has never been a time in my life that I didn't believe in Jesus. I knew John 3:16 before I could spell my name. Now, Heb. 3 warns me not to allow my heart to grow hard, but no where in scripture does it indicate my heart was born hardened to God's revelation. You grow calloused or hardened to something you are exposed to over a long period of time, like fingers on a guitar string or a hammer in the hand. So, too a man who is continually rebelling against God's revelations will EVENTUALLY be turned over to his lusts if he continues in his unbelief, but he is not born "turned over." He is not born hardened. He is born in need of reconcilation and if that message of reconcilation is presented it can be accepted. Over 80% of people come to know Christ before they enter their 20s and Christ even points to children as what we must be like in order to enter the kingdom. Now, what does he mean by that? If they are in the same hardened/dead and totally unable condition that adults are then what is the point of that statement? I believe he is telling us that our hearts must not be hardened. We must not look at everything through our baggage and callousness of life. We must become like a child.

I agree that we are enemies of God in that if we are not for him we are against him and in that we need reconcilation. I agree that we are hostile to God's law because it reveals our failings and our sin. It humbles us like a tutor should. But there is nothing about that truth which indicates that we cannot respond to a message sent for the very purpose of bringing reconcilation to the world.

If you were enemies with someone because you got in a huge fight and you were very hostile toward them. Could not a message from that person which explained his sacrifice and love for you in a intimate and sincere way not defuse your hostility and lead you to be reconciled? Of course it could. Why would you assume God's message of reconcilation would have any less power than that? (Unless of course that was explicitly and clearly taught in the text, which I don't believe it is)


Let me use your example to demonstrate. You said:

If I wanted my child to get out of the kitchen and said, "While you are in the kitchen you cannot please me." Does that in away suggest the child cannot leave the kitchen? Of course not.

The child hears you speaking in the kitchen - itself an assumption not supported by this verse.

Neither is the assumption that he cannot hear. That is simply not address and must be read into the text. How will they believe unless they hear? There is no reason to believe someone who is not being judicially temporarily hardened (sent a "spirit of stupor") cannot hear and understand the gospel. None.

With this in mind, what role does regeneration play in your view? Why is it called a new birth - who ever heard of a child initiating his own birth? Why is the Spirit necessary to please God in anything, if the most crucial decision we make does not require His prior work to regenerate us?

I simply see no need for regeneration at all in your view, to be frank.

The message bring faith and conviction. Rebirth brings new life. It is certainly still needed.

Blessings to you.

John said...

Dear Jeff,

You: "The issue of a command does not necessarily imply that the person commanded has the ability to comply."

You're absolutely right. If many people could get past the anthropocentric assumption you pointed out, they could see the "doctrines of grace much more readily." They infer that a command means that there must be an ability to comply. But that inference, as you noted, is not in scripture. Instead, we're told we're "dead" in sins.

You've done a good job!

Leighton Flowers said...

John and Jeff, I want to address this issue more fully..

Jeff: "The issue of a command does not necessarily imply that the person commanded has the ability to comply."

John: You're absolutely right. If many people could get past the anthropocentric assumption you pointed out, they could see the "doctrines of grace much more readily." They infer that a command means that there must be an ability to comply. But that inference, as you noted, is not in scripture. Instead, we're told we're "dead" in sins.

You've done a good job!

LF: I hope you understand the meaning of the word "implication." Allow me: "a meaning that is not expressly stated but can be inferred."

In other words, I am not stating that the command, the expressed expectation and the subsequet judgement of our response conclusively proves the ability of a response exists, but only that the IMPLICATION is very strong, just as it would be in everyday life. If an adult said to a child, "Clean your room or be punished." It would imply that the adult at least believes it is within the child's capacity to obey, wouldn't you agree? Only if that adult explicitly explained to you that he didn't believe the child had that ability would you come to that conclusion, correct? In other words, the strong IMPLICATION of the command must be countered by a stronger and more explicit explaination in order to defuse the inference of that implication. Make sense?

My claim is that no clear explaination exists in scripture to counter this strong implication. Granted, there are other vague inferences that when accompanied by extensive extrabiblical systemitized explainations can lead someone to drop this implication, but as I have argued I just don't believe these proof texts are being properly applied or express an clear enough explaination to warrant dismissing this strong implication.

As I said earlier, if you were in a fight with someone and there was great anger and hostility between you both and that individual sacrificed his son's life in order to send you an intimate reconcilatory message, would you ever assume that such an act of kindness couldn't possibly lead you to be reconciled with this person? Of course you wouldn't.

The implication here is huge. If two people are in need of reconcilation and one of them makes the provisions necessary to be reconciled and then sends a message of reconcilation to his enemy the implication is that this message itself has the power to bring reconcilation. And that this enemy has the ability to accept the terms of this treaty. Only if something explicitly explained that the enemy could not accept this message would anyone come to that very strange and unfounded conclusion.

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton, I just wanted to point out something on the post you gave to Jeff and John.

You said, "As I said earlier, if you were in a fight with someone and there was great anger and hostility between you both and that individual sacrificed his son's life in order to send you an intimate reconcilatory message, would you ever assume that such an act of kindness couldn't possibly lead you to be reconciled with this person? Of course you wouldn't.

The implication here is huge. If two people are in need of reconcilation and one of them makes the provisions necessary to be reconciled and then sends a message of reconcilation to his enemy the implication is that this message itself has the power to bring reconcilation. And that this enemy has the ability to accept the terms of this treaty. Only if something explicitly explained that the enemy could not accept this message would anyone come to that very strange and unfounded conclusion."

Actually, the analogy should look more like this.

You hate this person. This person is always telling you that you need to obey them and subject your entire way of thinking and life to them. You absolutely loathe them. They then send a message to you that they have made a provision for you to come apologize to him (none will be given to you because he maintains that you are the one in the wrong), humiliate yourself in front of everyone by bowing down before him and admitting that you were stupid, wrong and now need to be your enemies slave.

That's not a really attractive message to someone who hates your guts already (whether they say, "Oh I gave up so much, even my Son, so that you could admit your stupidity and fault). And that hatred stems from the one wanting the other to submit to them in the first place. This message will only add hostility (as we see with those who come into contact with the Gospel who have not been drawn/given by the Father), not take it away. This is consistent with Rom 1-2, where God's loving revelation of Himself in both creation and Scripture is rejected by men because of their condition, not because they haven't had a loving message delivered to them from God.

Along these lines, my question for you is this:

If the specific Gospel is the drawing, and all men need to be drawn without exception (unless one becomes a Pelagian),
then how are those in the OT saved? The Gospel, as Paul explains it, is Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day and now calls all men everywhere to repent and be reconciled to God through the revealed Person of Jesus. Did Abraham, Job, Moses, David, etc. know the full Gospel MESSAGE itself? Peter seems to indicate that the prophets did not know the person of the Messiah. Remember, I believe they are saved by the work of Christ through faith in God through the revelation they had received, but that message did not include anything about the Person of Jesus dying on a cross, did it? Why does Paul seem to indicate that the Gospel is something revealed to them and new? We all agree it is based on the OT, but it is not explicitly stated to every believer in the OT, is it?
So what drew the OT believers if the explicit words of the Gospel message was not present. Would you just say that God's Word in general is the drawing? How does that work out for you?

thanks again, Leighton.

Jeff Jones said...

Leighton,

You said:

1. THE UNIVERSAL CALL: The universal call to repentance and faith implies ability (I realize this is not proof, only an implication, but if a strong implication such as this is never met with an explicit counter explaination there is no reason not to believe it)

Again, that is not a necessary implication. If my church held an open house and everyone was welcome to come, that would not meen that Muabi in backcountry Nairobi would have the ability to come - or even to understand our message. It would not mean that someone hospitalized in the local hospital would have the ability to come. That doesn't make the offer any less universal.

2. GOD'S REVEALED SOLUTION TO MAN'S BASIC PROBLEM: Men's natural problem from birth sInce the fall of Adam has been that our relationship to God needs reconcilation. I would think that the message that was sent by God for the purpose of bringing reconcilation to the world (words of scripture not mine) would have the ability to accomplish the purpose for which it is sent, unless we are explicitly told otherwise.

I (and other Calvinists) contend that the explicit scripture you say is required exists, and in plenty. I've been very careful not to leave Romans 8, as that verse is the issue between us, so suffice to say that I don't accept your assertion.

3. THE POWER OF THE WORD: The scripture continually tells us the power and effectiveness of God's word. Jesus says, "The words I speak to you are spirit and life." "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation," it is "a doubled edged sword cutting both bone and into the soul," and the scripture "is profitable for rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Why would anyone assume these words of God could not lead a person who is not been judicially hardened to faith? (I could stop here, but there is a few other reasons worth mentioning once again)

The Word is the Sword of the Spirit. Without the Spirit's empowerment there are only words. The fact that not all are reconciled by the same word, though they have the same depravity and same opportunity and same ability, is telling. If God's intent is to save a defined and elected people, then the Word is no less a Word of reconciliation if used as a means for that purpose, and not for the reconciliation of all.

4. THE UNIQUENESS OF JUDICIAL HARDENING: Passages such as Acts 28; John 12, Romans 11 and Mark 4 all tells us that had the Israelites not been hardened that they "might have heard and repented...like the Gentiles would." (Acts 28:28) This appears to reveal a unique temporary (Rm. 11:26) condition of Israel at this time, thus revealing the natural condition of the rest of mankind who has not been sent a "spirit of stupor" or who has not had the "secrets of the kingdom hidden in parables." These direct actions of God to seal Israel in their rebellion so as to prevent their faith and repentance seems to be overwhelming evidence that such prevention was necessary and thus these men could not have been born totally unable. Why temporarily blind a man born blind from birth?

I always compare hardening to concrete: God doesn't have to actively do anything to harden a person, he just has to leave them alone. The fact that God hardens ANYONE seems fatal to your position, for then God is treating some in a manner he does not treat others. Traditionally, that's been the biggest problem people have with the doctrines of grace.

Why blind a man blind from birth? Well, first, you are assuming that these are unique incidents; I don't accept that. My reading of Scripture is that this hardening is a judgment for sin, and so anyone on earth is liable for such punishment as we are all born sinners by nature. The contrast between Gentiles and Jews you give does not have to imply that the world is somehow more receptive, simply that the Jews have been punished by having fewer of the elect among them. The Gentiles may be mroe receptive simply on the basis of having more elect. I will concede that this is a tough passage to deal with, but I think that its difficulties extend equally to your position - total depravity aside, God is picking and choosing here. That implies an eternal decree and a purpose in individual salvation. That's awfully Calvinistic.

5. OTHER IMPLICIT TEXTS OF SCRIPTURE: Texts such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 tell us God desires (I know this is not an expression of sovereign decree so spare the explaination) that all men come to the knowledge of Christ and to salvation. Since God has expressed this desire it seems to make more sense that the gospel's invitation actually makes this possible for all who hear the message. (Again, I'm not claiming this proves anything in and of itself, only the the implication is strong. The same implication is in verses such as John 3:16 and the like which do express a universality of the call and the intended scope of the atonement.

2 Peter 3:9 is in an eschatological context, not a soteriological one. Furthermore, follow the pronouns through chapter 3 from the beginning, and note the use of the second person. Peter is talking to and about the elect here, not the nonelect - contrast his use of the third person when talking about false teachers. Peter is simply saying the Second Coming is delayed so that the full number of the elect may come in.

1 Tim 2:4 has Paul explicitly commanding the offering of prayers for kings and those in authority - those persecuting his listeners. (As an aside, if it is up to human beings to accept or reject salvation, not God, why pray for them?) There is no grammatical reason why Paul could not speaking of all "kinds" of men, especially given the context of men in high places here. If your view is correct, in the case of unbelievers, God's desire is never going to happen. He desires the salvation of people who He made knowing full well they would never come. If they aren't unable, theey might as well be, because their fate was still fixed from eternity (otherwise God would not known their fate, would He?) The only logically consistent way to hold your position is to be an Open Theist.

6. The parable of the banqueting table where the king sends out his servants to invite anyone and everyone who will come. Why would we assume that only those chosen to have some secret inward working of regeneration would have responded to that initial invite? And why did the king make his choice based upon the garments (repenting righteousness through faith) if indeed his choice is unconditional? His election to whom he invited was conditioned in the beginning (it went to Israel only) but once they rebelled and turned it down he sent the invitation unconditionally to all men (He elected to invite all unconditionally) and thus many were called. But as you know "few were chosen." And if you read the story it is clear that their was a condition for the choice the king made. So, election, according to this parable, is unconditional in regard to who is invited but conditional in regard to who is chosen for salvation.

Be careful of reading too much meaning into the details of parables - that's a principle of hermeneutics. Errors there can lead to a highly allegorical, and therefore subjective, method of interpretation. About the garments in particular, it does not surprise me that he judged based on them - after all, we need Christ's imputed rightoeusness (clean garments) to be acceptable. God must clothe us. I see no offering of such garments to those He rejected, only a call to the dinner. That seems to fit my scheme better than yours (universal call to repent, regeneration and justification given specifically to some). Again, though, I don't want to read too much into a parable.

Jeff Jones said...

(continued)

You said,

As I said earlier, if you were in a fight with someone and there was great anger and hostility between you both and that individual sacrificed his son's life in order to send you an intimate reconcilatory message, would you ever assume that such an act of kindness couldn't possibly lead you to be reconciled with this person? Of course you wouldn't.

The implication here is huge. If two people are in need of reconcilation and one of them makes the provisions necessary to be reconciled and then sends a message of reconcilation to his enemy the implication is that this message itself has the power to bring reconcilation. And that this enemy has the ability to accept the terms of this treaty. Only if something explicitly explained that the enemy could not accept this message would anyone come to that very strange and unfounded conclusion.


Again, you're assuming what you're trying to prove. We've offered multiple explicit verses; you ignore their context or read your presuppositions into them and dismiss them. I can see the implications you are describing, but again, they are not necessary implications. They can be interpreted otherwise. And when the explicit testimony of the Bible is that those in the flesh, in an unregenerate state, cannot please God, I cannot accept your interpretation.

You still have not explained, because your system cannot, how an unregenerate sinner, who is hostile to God, of the same nature as those who rejected and crucified His Son, can somehow recieve, hear, consider, accep, and act on the message of redemption if such a man, in the flesh, cannot please God. Are these things not pleasing to God?

Or does the Word confer some kind of preventing grace upon its hearers, regenerating them enough to consider the message (this seems to be your position) - then why do some accept and some reject? More to the point, would this "prevented" state be a spiritual man, or a man in the flesh?

If the former, why do some reject the message? If a spiritual man can reject the message, can salvation then be lost by those who have - because the Spirit does not keep them infallibly? Does this not lead to keeping salvation by behaviour and human effort - salvation by works?

If the latter, does this not still contradict verse 8, and have a man in the flesh pleasing God?

You haven't answered these points. I don't believe you can, because I tried to once myself. I don't see this conversation moving any further; we're both entrenched.

You're in my prayers, brother Leighton. Thanks for the discussion; you did force me to drill deeper than I had before. I have learned, and I hope you have as well. God bless.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Leighton, I just wanted to point out something on the post you gave to Jeff and John.

Actually, the analogy should look more like this.

You hate this person. This person is always telling you that you need to obey them and subject your entire way of thinking and life to them.

You are illustrating the law, which has the purpose of pointing men to recognize their need for forgiveness. The Law acts as a tutor guiding us to realize our sinfulness.

You absolutely loathe them. They then send a message to you that they have made a provision for you to come apologize to him (none will be given to you because he maintains that you are the one in the wrong), humiliate yourself in front of everyone by bowing down before him and admitting that you were stupid, wrong and now need to be your enemies slave.

Here you are illustrating the gospel message, which Paul himself calls the message of reconciliation…

2 Cor. 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting mens sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christs ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So, it is not just an appeal for us to repent, as you illustrate. It is an appeal for to world to be reconciled to God.


That's not a really attractive message to someone who hates your guts already (whether they say, "Oh I gave up so much, even my Son, so that you could admit your stupidity and fault). And that hatred stems from the one wanting the other to submit to them in the first place. This message will only add hostility (as we see with those who come into contact with the Gospel who have not been drawn/given by the Father), not take it away.

Have you ever seen a child react this way to the gospel? Have you even been on missions to an area where the gospel is new and seen people react this way to the gospel? Now, there may be some who don’t listen and ignore it, but hostility is usually the reaction of someone who has grown hardened over time and have heard it and rejected it numerous times. This is my point with this analogy.

But even if we accept your remake of this analogy, there is nothing which indicates that you could not respond to a sincere and intimate message of reconciliation, even if that message called you to recognize and repent of your wrong doings and trust the loving sacrificial provision your enemy has provided to atoned for those crimes.

Let’s introduce a new analogy, which best represents the actual scenario:

A father has a son who rebels against his fathers rules. The son becomes hostile and an enemy to his father despite his fathers continued love and desire to be reconciled to the son. The son’s failings and his calloused heart have made him hate his fathers rules and even hate his father. His father continues to hold out his hands to his son in love despite his continual rebellion. The justice of the father demands punishment for breaking the rules but decides to forgive the punishment taking it upon himself as a substitute and following the rules himself. The father then writes a letter to his son telling him, “The rules have been fulfilled and your punishment has been paid and now you can live in the house freely with me without condemnation for breaking the rules. You must just come home and repent for your wrong doing and all will be restored.” Can the son, who is living in the pig sty’s of this world, who is weak and heaven laden with sin, not accept that offer? I think he can.



This is consistent with Rom 1-2, where God's loving revelation of Himself in both creation and Scripture is rejected by men because of their condition, not because they haven't had a loving message delivered to them from God.

It may be rejected by many but not all. God found favor with Job, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, etc etc. (and probably many not ever mentioned). You assume that God found favor with them because God made them to be what they were (i.e. through regeneration etc), but that is just begging the question. That can’t be assumed, it must be shown. Do you have biblical proof that those who did find favor in God’s sight were made to be favorable by God so that he could find them favorable? When we read the account of Noah in Gen. 5 we do see that the world had grown evil, but we also read God found favor with Noah and his family. Should we assume that was because God made Noah favorable all the while expressing disgust for the people he didn’t make favorable? It just doesn’t fit into the natural understanding of the text.

Along these lines, my question for you is this:

If the specific Gospel is the drawing, and all men need to be drawn without exception (unless one becomes a Pelagian),
then how are those in the OT saved? The Gospel, as Paul explains it, is Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day and now calls all men everywhere to repent and be reconciled to God through the revealed Person of Jesus. Did Abraham, Job, Moses, David, etc. know the full Gospel MESSAGE itself? Peter seems to indicate that the prophets did not know the person of the Messiah.

Great question. The bible is not perfectly clear on this issue, but if you read the text I quoted earlier out of 2 Cor. 5 it speaks of God “ not counting mens sins against them” and in Romans 3 we also see where Paul explains, “He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” So, those of the OT were justified through faith in God’s revelation to them at that time. Paul says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” But its clear that Abraham is not expressing faith in the gospel as we know it, but in what God has said. The revelation of the gospel by Christ is the most complete and final revelation of God which has been ordained for the church to proclaim to the world in order to be reconciled to God, which is why I continue to refer to it as being the power of God unto salvation.

Would you just say that God's Word in general is the drawing? How does that work out for you?

Yes, God’s revelation of himself. He reveals himself through nature but he also has special revelations as seen throughout scripture. I believe men are held to account for how they respond to those revelations of God. Observe what Christ said in John 12:

46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

There are several points made in this one passage. (1) Notice that verse 46 indicates that faith removes the darkness, yet it seems to me that Calvinists want us to believe we must be out of darkness (regenerated) in order to believe. (2) He doesn’t judge those who hears the words and fails to keep them. (3) The words themselves will be used on the final day to condemn them thus showing that men are accountable for what they hear and how they respond to it (how can words that they cannot hear bring condemnation?). (4) Most importantly notice how much emphasis Christ puts on the actual words he speaks, telling us that he is not speaking of his own accord but speaking words directly from the Father. Why? Because he know that the Father’s command may lead to eternal life. This is why in John 6 Jesus says, The words I speak to you are spirit and life. We cannot underestimate the persuasive drawing power of Gods words.


thanks again, Leighton.

Thank you brother!

John said...

Hi Leighton,

Just for a point of self-awareness, you need to come to terms that you are an Arminiam. Your presuppositions are entirely Arminian. I'm not sure why you think otherwise. I'm not saying you're a disciple of James Arminius, as very few people are, but that you share the same anthropocentric presuppositions that mark that approach to theology, that human beings must be at the center of salvation.

You: "In other words, the strong IMPLICATION of the command must be countered by a stronger and more explicit explaination in order to defuse the inference of that implication. Make sense?"

That's an inference that you are reading INTO the text. It is eisegesis based on anthropocentric presuppositions. Scripture does not teach that.

Judas, Pontius Pilate, and Herod were all predestined to do what they did. They are also responsible for their free choice. They were commanded, in the sixth commandment not to murder an innocent person. That was the Lord's will of command. But they were predestined to murder the only truly innocent person who ever lived. That was the Lord's will of decree. In other words, the Lord commanded them not to murder the Lord Jesus but they could not have done otherwise. It is not just that they were compelled to do something that they did not want to do but that as sinners (and bereft of God's grace that could have enabled them to believe) they hated the Lord of life.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Jeff,

1. THE UNIVERSAL CALL:

Again, that is not a necessary implication. If my church held an open house and everyone was welcome to come, that would not meen that Muabi in backcountry Nairobi would have the ability to come - or even to understand our message. It would not mean that someone hospitalized in the local hospital would have the ability to come. That doesn't make the offer any less universal.

I beg to differ. If your message was only sent to your community and in your language it would certainly be "less universal." But if it had been sent to Nairobi, spoken in their language, they would certainly be able to reply. That is the implication I am refering to brother. If they are invited the IMPLICATION is that they can come. As to the man at the hospital who is unable to attend the open house, would you send messengers to that individual inviting them knowing full well they can't leave the hospital? Of course you wouldn't, that would be rude. The implication of the invite is the expectation it can be accepted. That is quite simple.

2. GOD'S REVEALED SOLUTION TO MAN'S BASIC PROBLEM:

I (and other Calvinists) contend that the explicit scripture you say is required exists, and in plenty. I've been very careful not to leave Romans 8, as that verse is the issue between us, so suffice to say that I don't accept your assertion.

I understand that you believe the texts you have presented suffice, but being that none of them even mention "faith" or the "gospel" I find it hard to conclude they explicitly explain men's natural inability to respond in faith to the gospel. We may just have to agree to disagree and we'll find out in heaven.

3. THE POWER OF THE WORD:

The Word is the Sword of the Spirit. Without the Spirit's empowerment there are only words.

I think most Arminians would agree with this statement to an extent, after all most affirm the spirit's working in and through the gospel's proclaimation. But I would hesitate to call words authored by God as "only words." As I noted, Jesus said, "The words that I speak to you are spirit and life." Scripture teaches that truth can set you free. Words authored and inspired by the Spirit are powerful indeed regardless of how we might explain the nature and extent of that power. Regardless, the point here is that there is power in the proclaimation of the word and to believe it falls short of providing what is needed for someone to respond in faith is a unfounded presumption at best.

The fact that not all are reconciled by the same word, though they have the same depravity and same opportunity and same ability, is telling.

I don't know that all do have the same depravity, as mentioned in our discussions regarding the hardness of ones heart and I'm not sure everyone is given the same opportunity either. Not everyone is blinded on a road like Paul or gets to touch the scars like Thomas. But blessed are they who don't see and still believe. They please the Lord.

If God's intent is to save a defined and elected people, then the Word is no less a Word of reconciliation if used as a means for that purpose, and not for the reconciliation of all.

But in light of the fact that Paul specifically says, " God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation," it certainly seems probable that this message is meant for the whole world and everyone in it.

4. THE UNIQUENESS OF JUDICIAL HARDENING:

I always compare hardening to concrete: God doesn't have to actively do anything to harden a person, he just has to leave them alone.

Yes, I agree. But if there is a bunch of plagues, clear teaching and miracles all around them they might be convinced and repent of their former position, thus God does actively step in at times throughout history to blind men so that they will not be convinced and repent. Understand? He does this to Pharaoh when the plagues start because he wants to accomplish the passover before he lets the people go. He does this to Israel when Christ was on earth because once again he had a passover to accomplish. God does actively blind people so as to prevent their repentance in order to accomplish a greater good. That is seen clearly in scripture.

The fact that God hardens ANYONE seems fatal to your position, for then God is treating some in a manner he does not treat others. Traditionally, that's been the biggest problem people have with the doctrines of grace.

If this is what you believe about the classic Arminian position then I suspect you have only been exposed to the modern day namby pamby version held by mega church types. I encourage you to become more fimiliar with the scholarly non-Calvinistic explainations of these matters. They are much more convincing than I ever imagined and I am now beginning to understand why so many scholars throughout history have rejected Calvinistic teachings.

In fact, the objection you have express here is exactly the objection Paul is actually addressing in Romans 9-11. The objection of a God who temporarly hardens a nation in order to ingraft another is the objection Paul addresses, not the objection of Arminians toward Calvinism's claims.


Why blind a man blind from birth? Well, first, you are assuming that these are unique incidents; I don't accept that. My reading of Scripture is that this hardening is a judgment for sin, and so anyone on earth is liable for such punishment as we are all born sinners by nature. The contrast between Gentiles and Jews you give does not have to imply that the world is somehow more receptive, simply that the Jews have been punished by having fewer of the elect among them. The Gentiles may be mroe receptive simply on the basis of having more elect.

Or maybe they are more receptive because they haven't been judicially hardened by God as Paul explains so clearly in Romans 11? I'm just reading the text.

I will concede that this is a tough passage to deal with, but I think that its difficulties extend equally to your position - total depravity aside, God is picking and choosing here. That implies an eternal decree and a purpose in individual salvation. That's awfully Calvinistic.

No, its awfully Arminian (you might know that if you read his work directly). God is temporarily and purposefully sealing a nation in their already rebellious condition, by sending them a "spirit of stupor" and "hiding the message in parables" so they won't repent for a time. Why? So as to accomplish redemption on the cross and the ingrafting of the Gentiles into the church. This is as Arminian as it comes brother, though many so-called "Arminians" or simply "anti-Calvinists" out there wouldn't know it.

5. OTHER IMPLICIT TEXTS OF SCRIPTURE: Texts such as 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 tell us...

If your view is correct, in the case of unbelievers, God's desire is never going to happen. He desires the salvation of people who He made knowing full well they would never come.

Does God desire for you, as a believer, to obey him? Of course he does. Do you always? Of course not. Has God failed? No. He expresses his pleasure in the salvation of souls, just as he expresses his pleasure in the obedience of his people. The impliciation is that both your obedience and the worlds repentance is made possible. God doesn't desire to save everyone regardless of what they choose. He desires to save those who choose to believe and follow him. Your comment regarding God's foreknowledge of what will happen could be equally applied to your choice to obey. He desires you to obey knowing full well when you won't, but that doesn't negate the fact that you are able to obey does it? Of course not.

The only logically consistent way to hold your position is to be an Open Theist.

Untrue. That is like me saying the only logically consistent way to hold your position is to be a Hyper Calvinist. Let's not go there.

6. The parable of the banqueting table

Be careful of reading too much meaning into the details of parables - that's a principle of hermeneutics.

I agree, which is why I said these were "IMPLICATIONS" on which I based my arguments, which is what you asked for. Thus, I have shown these are not merely assumptions brought to the text, as I have accused you of doing in regard to your presumption that men are unable to respond in faith to the gospel.

I can see the implications you are describing, but again, they are not necessary implications. They can be interpreted otherwise. And when the explicit testimony of the Bible is that those in the flesh, in an unregenerate state, cannot please God, I cannot accept your interpretation.

But the text doesn't explicitly say that. That is my point. It only says that those in the flesh can't please God, which we all affirm. It says nothing about the means by which they leave the flesh (whether is be by irresistible or resistible means) and walk in faith. Nothing, nada, zilch, yet this is what you appeal to in order to affirm your position. I am just being honest. It is weak. And I'm not an enemy of Calvinism. I have been looking for affirmation for this doctrine as a Calvinist and haven't been able to find it. Yes, I am becoming more convinced of this view, but I do believe I am being objective here. As Bill Oreily would say, "The Spin stops here."

You still have not explained, because your system cannot, how an unregenerate sinner, who is hostile to God, of the same nature as those who rejected and crucified His Son, can somehow recieve, hear, consider, accep, and act on the message of redemption if such a man, in the flesh, cannot please God. Are these things not pleasing to God?

The same way that a regenerate believer, who is indwelled by the same Spirit, of the same reborn nature, can recieve, hear, consider the same passage of scripture and come to different conclusions. Its is call free will. The will of the man, whether regenerate or not, makes choices and is accountable for those choices. Can you not be pleasing to God as a regenerate man when you choose to act in the flesh? Of course you can. Even God's people don't please God when they walk in the flesh. As Romans 8 says, those in the flesh, living according to the desires of the flesh, cannot please God. But those who walk in faith can and do. Which is why they are rewarded. It makes little since for God to reward someone for something He did irresistably, doesn't it? Its kinda like a ventriloquist giving his dummy a candy bar for learning to say his alphabet, don't you think?

You haven't answered these points.

Actually I have been discussing these points with Jon. You may want to read back through those too.

I don't believe you can, because I tried to once myself. I don't see this conversation moving any further; we're both entrenched.

You're in my prayers, brother Leighton. Thanks for the discussion; you did force me to drill deeper than I had before. I have learned, and I hope you have as well. God bless.

Ahhh, the brush off. Its cool. I know, you don't want to go to far beyond the safety of the "pat answer" bouys. Kidd'in. Just trying to provoke you to stay in the discussion, don't take it personally.

Seriously, I do like these discussions and I appreciate the prayer. I don't think I'm as "entrenched" as you think I am. I am a "seeker" and a "learner" at heart, just ask my wife. I love to study and consider all perspectives of doctrine openly and objectively. That is not to say I will accept any doctrine, just that I will consider it fully. I debated in high school and college and was forced to always be able to debate both sides of an issue. Let me tell you, it does wonders when you really consider all aspects of your own position objectively. God is teaching me daily and we all need each other for sharpening, but I totally understand if you need to bow out. I just encourage you not to become so entrenched that God cannot teach you. I know I'm still learning, despite how "convinced" I may come across on in this format.

Thanks for you time brother, my prayers are with you!

Leighton Flowers said...

John,

Just for a point of self-awareness, you need to come to terms that you are an Arminiam. Your presuppositions are entirely Arminian. I'm not sure why you think otherwise. I'm not saying you're a disciple of James Arminius, as very few people are, but that you share the same anthropocentric presuppositions that mark that approach to theology, that human beings must be at the center of salvation.

Read the last part of my last post to Jeff and I think that will shed some light on our discussion. I realize I am arguing for the Arminian position and could certainly be convinced by it as many have been through out Christian history. Though I used to be a stauch 5 pointer I would now consider myself as an objective seeker and learner on this subject, despite the tone and confident way in which I may present these arguements at times. That is the debater in me. :-)

LF: "In other words, the strong IMPLICATION of the command must be countered by a stronger and more explicit explaination in order to defuse the inference of that implication. Make sense?"

That's an inference that you are reading INTO the text. It is eisegesis based on anthropocentric presuppositions. Scripture does not teach that.

So, being completely objective, if Calvinism was unknown to you and you picked up a bible and read where the apostles were asked, "What must we do to be saved." And they replied, "Repent and believe." You would honestly say that you might come away thinking to yourself, "That probably isn't possible?" You really don't believe that command at least implies the ability?

Judas, Pontius Pilate, and Herod were all predestined to do what they did. They are also responsible for their free choice. They were commanded, in the sixth commandment not to murder an innocent person. That was the Lord's will of command. But they were predestined to murder the only truly innocent person who ever lived.

What does that mean though? Does that mean God made them murder? That God determined their sin? Or did God permit them to continue in their rebellion knowing their sinful hearts and the outcome and using it to bring about his ultimate purpose? I pick the latter. Why? Because James tells us that God doesn't even tempt men to evil, how could I accept a doctrine which tells me he determined the temptation and the choice of the one tempted? I believe God is sovereign enough to stay in control without having to determine all things. How? His ways are higher than our ways but I'm very careful not impune God's Holy nature by implying that God made people sin. He may blind people temporarly from the truth in order to accomplish a greater good through their rebellion, but I would never say God determined sinful actions and desires of men.

That was the Lord's will of decree. In other words, the Lord commanded them not to murder the Lord Jesus but they could not have done otherwise.

What do you mean they could not have done otherwise? Could Adam in the garden have done otherwise? Did God determine his sin too? I think you need to be careful here. We are dealing with mysterious infinite matters and we only have small finite brains. Don't draw conclusions scripture never draws.

John said...

There is such a thing as God's "will of command" and His "will of decree." The 10 commandments, for example, are God's will of command. He commands us not to murder. And yet scripture clearly tells us that Pontius Pilate, Herod, and Judas were predestined to murder. It was God's will of decree that they did so. To say otherwise, is to say not only that people (whose every inclination of their hearts are "only evil all the time", desperately "wicked", "dead in trespasses and sins", etc.) . . . is to say that people are not only somehow "free" to chose good but that God is not in providential control of all that happens. That then leads you, inevitably to the so-called "Open theism", which is really "minitheism" (and quite frankly, atheism).

Actually "Calvinists" (i.e. Biblicists) can speak of people being "free": "free" in the sense not being compelled by anything outside of themselves. God does not have to pull the strings of Judas, Pilate, or Herod to predestine them to do what they did. As unregenerate people, they do what comes naturally to them. God did not prohibit them from doing what is right. They simply lacked the ability to do otherwise.

As for what I would assume reading scripture: Now you're getting right to the point! Unregenerate, man-centered people will assume exactly what you said they will assume when reading scripture. That's why the Arminian presuppositions are so pernicious: they're so natural. As J. I. Packer has said, Arminianism is the "natural" theology, the anthropocentric theology that naturally occurs to people beginning with the presupposition that they are the center of salvation, that God revolves around them, etc. That's why we have scripture, to tell us differently than we would assume if left to our untransformed minds. And scripture says, salvation "does not depend on man's desire or effort but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:16).

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi, John

I need to you define or explain a term for me. You wrote, "scripture clearly tells us that Pontius Pilate, Herod, and Judas were predestined to murder." And later you said in regard to what you suppose I believe, "that God is not in providential control of all that happens."

First, what are the passages specifically to which you are referring in regard to men being predestined to murder? Second, what do you mean when you say "predestined to murder" and "in providential control of all that happens." How does that look in your system? I ask because later you write,


"Actually "Calvinists" (i.e. Biblicists) can speak of people being "free": "free" in the sense not being compelled by anything outside of themselves. God does not have to pull the strings of Judas, Pilate, or Herod to predestine them to do what they did. As unregenerate people, they do what comes naturally to them. God did not prohibit them from doing what is right. They simply lacked the ability to do otherwise.

In order to avoid confusion about what it is that you believe let's talk about the choices of regenerate men, such as you and I. Even more simply, lets speak about choices that wouldn't in any way conflict with our nature's ability, such as what color shirt to wear. If this morning you contemplated the choice to wear a green shirt as opposed to the red one, and you chose the red one, was there any thing at all which prevented you from being able to choose the red one? In other words, could you have chosen the green one?

One of the reason's I ask this question is because in your explaination above you seem to assume that the natural man's nature dictates that he must murder, when you know full well that had another natural man been in those same circumstances he might not have made the same choices. In other words, it is not simply the fallen nature of the individual which determined his choice to murder. Right? The other reason I ask this question is because this will point us to the real crux of our discussion with regard to what free will is all about.


There is such a thing as God's "will of command" and His "will of decree."

Yes, I recognize that. Did you read my post? I explained almost the exact same thing and then showed how that relates to my point in regard to 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4, but you seemed to have missed that. Maybe that was written to one of the other guys? I don't remember for sure...

To say otherwise, is to say not only that people (whose every inclination of their hearts are "only evil all the time", desperately "wicked", "dead in trespasses and sins", etc.) . . . is to say that people are not only somehow "free" to chose good but that God is not in providential control of all that happens. That then leads you, inevitably to the so-called "Open theism", which is really "minitheism" (and quite frankly, atheism).

I hope you understand that I affirm God has providential control of all that happen, which is why I have asked you to better and explain and define exactly what you mean by that. If you mean that God knows and permits sinful choices, sometimes in such a way as too bring about a greater purpose, then I don't have a problem. But if you mean that God causes/determines/creates the desires, choices, and sinful acts of men then I reject such conclusions based upon the scripture I have already presented not to mention the obvious assault upon the integrity and holiness of our God, who is clearly portrayed in scripture as not even tempting men to evil and being separate from all that is unholy and sinful.

As for what I would assume reading scripture: Now you're getting right to the point! Unregenerate, man-centered people will assume exactly what you said they will assume when reading scripture. That's why the Arminian presuppositions are so pernicious: they're so natural.

I've got to stop you here. I am not talking about how "unregenerate, man-center people" understand the scripture. I'm talking about saved people's reaction to the scripture and even to Calvinism when it is explained to them. Even Calvinist admit in testimonies (just as I once did) that I didn't like the idea of Calvinism but I was convinced over time. Sproul even talks about being "drug kicking and screaming to this difficult doctrine."

But it seems to me the Calvinists use this response as a badge of honor or even as an arguement that this must be true. They reason, "Everybody hates this doctrine at first so it must be true." And if someone doesn't come around to seeing it there way then they just must not be enlightened and must still be acting an unregenerate man.

Tell me, where does the bible ever warn us that the gospel of our salvation would cause this type of reaction FOR THOSE WHO ALREADY BELIEVE? God is the author of peace not confusion, right?


As J. I. Packer has said, Arminianism is the "natural" theology, the anthropocentric theology that naturally occurs to people beginning with the presupposition that they are the center of salvation, that God revolves around them, etc.

I don't believe Packer is being fair with this type of statement. Not all non-Calvinist believe "God revolves around them" and I imagine we could find many Calvinists with their share of hubris. How we understand and explain these mysterious matters of soteriology does not necessarily make us "anthropocentric." If one truly believes scripture supports the teaching that God desired for men to have contra-causal freedom then the most God centered thing for him to teach would be that doctrine, after all it is what God wanted. Only if you assume your position is the true one does this argument have any merit and both sides can do that. For example, suppose Arminianism is true. That would make Calvinism a man made dogma and thus "anthropocentric." These types of question begging accusations really don't accomplish anything.


That's why we have scripture, to tell us differently than we would assume if left to our untransformed minds. And scripture says, salvation "does not depend on man's desire or effort but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:16).

And I'm sure Arminians could say pretty much the exact same thing and end with proof text of their own. Of course Arminians affirm the truth of Romans 9:16, but they understand it to mean that Paul is speaking about the Jews who ran after the law as to attain righteousness, and if they wanted it bad enough and worked hard enough for it then maybe they would be accepted by God, but God was showing mercy to a group of people who were not even a nation. Dirty Gentiles were entering into covenant with THEIR GOD!!! Paul was simply telling them, He can have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, even dirty Gentiles, and it doesn't matter how much you will to strive after the law, you will only stumble over it because it depends upon God's mercy, which he is showing to the Gentiles because they are pursuing righteousness through faith.

It's all perspective. Have a blessed day brother

John said...

It's not "all perspective". There is such a thing as truth.

"They [Pontius Pilate, Herod, etc.] did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." (Acts 4:28)

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that He can bless Israel and glorify Himself (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4, 17); “It was the Lord’s doing to harden [the Caananite’s] hearts . . . in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy. . .” (Jos. 11:20)

And there's scripture about Judas being 'the son of perdition', etc., that I'm too lazy to look up right now.

The Arminian argument (echoed by Brad Reynolds) that Romans 9:16 is just an answer to Jewish chauvinists is rather silly. In the very context there Paul mentions Esau (whom God "hated" before he had done anything good or bad) and Pharoah (whose heart God hardened). Neither were Jews and so that can't be what Paul was speaking of. Rather the words mean what they say, "It [salvation] is not by man's desire or effort." We all agree on the "effort" part but notice that it isn't by our "desire" either. It has to be that way because without God's prior gracious gift of new life (i.e. "regeneration"), none of us would chose to believe, since "every inclination of [our] hearts is only evil all the time" (Gen. 6:5), and we're "dead" in our trespasses and sins.

Packer is right. Sinners (that's all of us!) naturally assume that they are at the center of the universe. So they bring that assumption into the reading of scripture and read things into that aren't there: such as the inference that where there's a command there must be the ability to obey. Herod and Pontius Pilate had the same command in the sixth commandment that we do. But they had no power to obey. The will of command against murder could not be obeyed on their part because the will of decree said they would murder the only truly innocent Man who ever lived. God can accomplish this without directly pulling Pilate's and Herod's strings and making them sin because as unregenerate people they chose what comes naturally to them. They murder because as sinners they are by nature murderers.

Isn't this what the Lord Jesus got at in the sermon on the mount (with the teaching about anger, lust, etc.)? That people are murderers, they just don't have the opportunity to actually act on who they are by nature. That people are adulterers even if they don't happen to have the opportunity to express who they are.

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,

I think one of my responses to you, concerning what you said about John 6, got lost in the mix. If you can look up to see it and respond, I would like to know your thoughts on it.

I would also like to point out something that I've learned by reading the OT because you seem to present a false dichotomy (either God causes men to sin or He simply uses what men do, which is what I would call the passive view of God---God controls all things by foreknowing what will occur and then using it rather than actively bringing it about). The OT very much seems to indicate that God has a lot more to do with the actions of men (sinful or not). We would all agree that God tempts no man. That He is in no way evil. But He does determine the outcome of all things and therefore must also control the means in some way. Here are some verses to consider:

Gen 50 comments on the evil act of Joseph's brothers when the decided by their "free choice" to sell off their brother.

20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, [but] God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Note that it does not say "you meant it for evil," but God "used it for good," but that they both meant/planned/purposed/thought it up to be done.

2 Sam 17 has two choices presented to Absalom.
"14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel." For the Lord had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring calamity on Absalom."


1 Kings 12 once again has Rehoboam making a decision concerning two choices laid before him.

15 So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn [of events] from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat... 24 `Thus says the Lord, "You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me."

1 Kings 22 has Ahab trying to decide whether to go to battle or not.

"19 Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. 20 "The Lord said, `Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. 21 "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, `I will entice him.' 22 "The Lord said to him, `How?' And he said, `I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, `You are to entice [him] and also prevail. Go and do so.' 23 "Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you."

2 Thes 2 confirms this by the fact that God is the one who sends a "supernatural work of deception" upon those who do not receive the love of the truth.

I finally realized after all of the talk that Arminians and Open Theists give about how God does determine some things, that they don't have a single verse that ever tells us that He doesn't. In fact, if every time we are told WHY someone makes a choice from the divine perspective, that it is because God determined it, then why (except for the sake of an already held presupp that man must have free will) would we assume otherwise about anything? I think that is why Arminians, and even you here, have kept bringing up passages that deal with people making choices or following God that don't tell us WHY they follow God. That is only begging the question when you say, "Well David, Job, Abraham are seen as righteous men." Well, yes, because we would say that they were regenerated. That is the principle we see at work in all things (that God has control of all decisions in some way while being completely good and without evil or being tempting at the same time). So if the Bible gives us this grid through which we answer the WHY, then we can say the WHAT (that people have faith in God) is not from themselves, but from God.
Now I see this as influence upon the man who chooses. I believe the man is really choosing, but is always being influenced to a greater degree when God wants something to go one way and to a lesser degree when He does not want him to go a certain way. There is always an influence for good and one for evil (both controlled by God). The man's nature will always have him choose the influence which shuns the Lordship of God unless God intervenes and influences Him to the greater degree. In other words, I see God turning men's minds via influence wherever He wishes them to go. I believe that the giving of a new mind in regeneration is God changing one's mind and therefore desires toward Himself. So man has a perfect ability to choose. He ALWAYS chooses what he wants to do, but what he wants to do has come about from what has influenced him the most (the good or evil influences that are given to him and the already held desire he has to not be under God's rule). As John pointed out, it doesn't take much to influence a man to do evil. Left to himself, the man would probably choose this without a demonic influence, but they solidify the decision the man will make when they are the dominant influence.

I know I've opened up a can of worms here, but I thought we should go deeper here.

BTW, Rom 1-2 has its conclusion that ALL, not some (there is no exception) have truth revealed to them and reject it without God intervening.
And children don't reject a gospel that says Jesus loves you. I don't think many people do. It's the Lordship of Christ that He calls people to that they reject. You can see this rebellion in children when you want them to submit to the will of God. If they are not totally depraved, then they should be able to come under His rule once the gospel has been given. This is not the case. Often when children grow up they then become aware of what the Gospel actually calls them to, and if by the grace of God they have not been drawn, they reject it. So there are a lot of issues there and we should refrain from making experiential arguments either way, since it is only based on a limited perception. With that said, we may be working with different definitions of what the Gospel is as well. I believe it is not just believing in what Jesus did, but also via repentance, drawing into a submissive relationship with Him for which we have been reconciled. It is the latter that people are hostile toward, not usually the former. Do you affirm this?

Thanks again, Leighton. Take care.

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,

This single comment is the crux of the matter:

"it depends upon God's mercy, which he is showing to the Gentiles because they are pursuing righteousness through faith"

God is showing mercy because of their pursuing righteousness through faith in Rom 9?

10 "And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived [twins] by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though [the twins] were NOT YET BORN and HAD NOT DONE ANYTHING GOOD OR BAD, so that GOD'S PURPOSE ACCORDING TO HIS CHOICE would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then IT DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE MAN WHO DESIRES OR THE MAN WHO RUNS, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, "WHEY DOES HE STILL FIND FAULT? FOR WHO RESISTS HIS WILL?" 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you MAKE ME like this," will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to MAKE from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience VESSELS OF WRATH PRESERVED FOR DESTRUCTION? 23 And [He did so] to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, WHICH HE PREPARED BEFOREHAND FOR GLORY, 24 namely us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles."

Your interpretation just doesn't fit. Paul is definitely arguing a point as to why the Jews have been hardened, but his argument is because God is the one who chooses whomever He wishes to be saved or damned. Therefore, He can call people who are both Jew and Gentile. I agree with everything you said about the passage except that God is having mercy on them because they are desiring God by seeking righteouness through faith in Him. That is not what the text says. If that were so, then God's choice does depend on the man, it is according to the man who desires/runs, and there should be absolutely no objection like "why does He still find fault? for who resists His will?" He certainly can find plenty of fault in someone who rejects Him and does not believe. Why would this ever be an objection someone would raise then?
I further would disagree that God hardens in order to save the same people He hardens. Those hardened in this text clearly are the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and they are tolerated instead of judged immediately "in order to demonstrate how rich his mercy is upon vessels prepared beforehand for glory," which is clearly the other group from the other lump of clay in the passage.

Thanks again, Leighton. just thought I would chime in before I went to bed.:) God bless.

John said...

Hi bristopoly and all,

You wrote: "So man has a perfect ability to choose. He ALWAYS chooses what he wants to do, but what he wants to do has come about from what has influenced him the most. . . ."

Yes! That's an important point. Jonathan Edwards, in his important (but very hard to read!) book "The Freedom of the Will, essentially argued that there really is no such thing as a part of our psychology called "the will", independent of other parts of our psyche. Rather what we call "the will" is the sum total of our desires, the majority of who we are. So there's no such thing as this untainted will, detached from the rest of us, out of which we can somehow muster "will power" and over-come the other impulses of our nature. Our "will" is just the majority vote of who we are. And since "every inclination of our hearts is only evil all the time" (Gn. 6:5), desperately sick (Jer. 17:9), "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2), we will, in our unregenerate state, choose against God. And we will do so freely.

Who will rescue us from the sinful flesh? Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Leighton Flowers said...

I think one of my responses to you, concerning what you said about John 6, got lost in the mix. If you can look up to see it and respond, I would like to know your thoughts on it.

I thought I responded to all your posts. Which comments are you referring to?

I would also like to point out something that I've learned by reading the OT because you seem to present a false dichotomy (either God causes men to sin or He simply uses what men do, which is what I would call the passive view of God---God controls all things by foreknowing what will occur and then using it rather than actively bringing it about). The OT very much seems to indicate that God has a lot more to do with the actions of men (sinful or not). We would all agree that God tempts no man. That He is in no way evil. But He does determine the outcome of all things and therefore must also control the means in some way. Here are some verses to consider:

How can you say that God determines all things but at the same time say that God tempts no man? If God determines the tempter action of tempting then God would be tempting men. Moreover, how much worse would it be for God to also determine the response of the one being tempted? James' point by telling us that God doesn't even tempt men to sin seems moot if God not only determined the temptation but even the sinful failing of the one being tempted, don't you think?

Gen 50 comments on the evil act of Joseph's brothers when the decided by their "free choice" to sell off their brother.

20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, [but] God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Note that it does not say "you meant it for evil," but God "used it for good," but that they both meant/planned/purposed/thought it up to be done.

But that in no way suggests that God made his brother sin. It only means God meant for the sin, which he perfectly foreknew, to lead to the accomplishment of his purposes.

2 Sam 17 has two choices presented to Absalom.
"14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel." For the Lord had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring calamity on Absalom."


1 Kings 12 once again has Rehoboam making a decision concerning two choices laid before him.

15 So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn [of events] from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat... 24 `Thus says the Lord, "You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me."

1 Kings 22 has Ahab trying to decide whether to go to battle or not.

"19 Micaiah said, "Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. 20 "The Lord said, `Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that. 21 "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, `I will entice him.' 22 "The Lord said to him, `How?' And he said, `I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, `You are to entice [him] and also prevail. Go and do so.' 23 "Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you."

I only see these passages as being God immanently working in creation to bring about his purposes. As I have explained I do believe God may intervene to prevent someone from seeing the truth (i.e. Pharoah) so as to accomplish a greater good, but these examples seem to prove that this is the exception, not the norm, otherwise why would the authors bother mentioning it? In other words, if every choice of man was causally detemined by God then what is the point in pointing out that God determined these specific choices of Pharoah? See my point? What is the difference between the choices Pharoah made when not being hardened by God and those he made when being hardened? Understand my question?

Let me take it a step further. Some Calvinist look at specific examples, such as the divine inspiration of scripture, or God's hardening someone's heart as proof that God determines all choices in the same manner. Indeterminists (non-Calvinists) affirm that God can and does intervene within time and space to influence men and bring about his ultimate purpose. He often uses natural means to accomplish this, I'm sure. But why if scripture takes the time to point out these special occurances would we assume that all choices of men, even the small insignificant choices, are determined by God? We can see why God might casually determine Jonah to carry the message to Ninevah through the use of the means (boat/fish etc) but does that prove all choices of Jonah have been determined in this manner? Or that those who heard Jonah message were determined to respond in a certain manner? I don't think so.


BTW, Rom 1-2 has its conclusion that ALL, not some (there is no exception) have truth revealed to them and reject it without God intervening.

What verse are you talking about here?

And children don't reject a gospel that says Jesus loves you. I don't think many people do. It's the Lordship of Christ that He calls people to that they reject. You can see this rebellion in children when you want them to submit to the will of God. If they are not totally depraved, then they should be able to come under His rule once the gospel has been given. This is not the case. Often when children grow up they then become aware of what the Gospel actually calls them to, and if by the grace of God they have not been drawn, they reject it. So there are a lot of issues there and we should refrain from making experiential arguments either way, since it is only based on a limited perception. With that said, we may be working with different definitions of what the Gospel is as well. I believe it is not just believing in what Jesus did, but also via repentance, drawing into a submissive relationship with Him for which we have been reconciled. It is the latter that people are hostile toward, not usually the former. Do you affirm this?

Why does Christ make children the example of what one must be like to enter the kingdom of God, if indeed they are in the same totally depraved condition of their adult counterpart. What is the difference?



Thanks for the discussion brother

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi John,

You wrote: It's not "all perspective". There is such a thing as truth.

I meant that the interpretation of truth depends upon the perspective. That is what we are discussing.

"They [Pontius Pilate, Herod, etc.] did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." (Acts 4:28)

It is not said that God determinted that Pilate, Herod and the rulers would sin, but that their sins accomplished what God had decreed should be done, which was for Christ to die and atone for our sins. It was God's will that Christ should die, but they chose, of their own free will, to slay him. There is not enough this verse to draw a conclusion that impunes God's holy nature by making him culpable for these men's actions. The thing that "should happen" was that Christ would die. The fact that God used these people's stubborn hearts and selffish desires to help bring that about in no way even suggests that he is the one who determines them to sin.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that He can bless Israel and glorify Himself (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4, 17); “It was the Lord’s doing to harden [the Caananite’s] hearts . . . in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy. . .” (Jos. 11:20)

I'm glad you brought up Pharaoh because I think he is a great model for how judicial hardening works. It's not that God had to make Pharaoh want to keep all his slave labor. He already wanted that. It wasn't until the 6th plague that Pharaoh is said to be hardened "by God." Why? The plagues are very convincing and only if God blinds him from seeing the obvious truth that Moses represents the one true God will Pharaoh remain unconvinced and allow for all the plagues that God desires to accomplish. God doesn't want the plagues to convince Pharaoh's stubborn will until He has accomplished the passover and teaches Israel an important lesson through the exodus. In the same way Israel was already stubborn and rebellious against Christ's teachings. God simply sealed them in their unbelief by blinding them from anything that might convince them to repent. Read Mark 4:

"10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"

John, please explain to me why Christ hid the secrets of the kingdom from those on the outside? Clearly, Christ explains why he does this. "Otherwise they might turn and be forgiven." What would happen if they did that? Who would crucify Christ. There would never be a passover. So, just as God hardened Pharaoh by sealing him in his rebellion and blinding him from being convinced by the plagues, so too God blinded Israel from Christ's teachings and miracles so they would not believe until his purposes were accomplished. OTHERWISE they might turn and be healed. This seems to soundly defeat the whole idea of Total Depravity from birth. Why would Christ need to hide anything in parables from people born blind? Please explain this text.


The Arminian argument (echoed by Brad Reynolds) that Romans 9:16 is just an answer to Jewish chauvinists is rather silly. In the very context there Paul mentions Esau (whom God "hated" before he had done anything good or bad)

Let me stop you and ask what you think it means when it says, "Esau I hated."


and Pharoah (whose heart God hardened). Neither were Jews and so that can't be what Paul was speaking of.

Pharoah was being used as an example of one who was hardened in the past, in the same way that the Jews were being hardened at that time. Esau and Jacob were of the same father and thus "Israel" had not been established, but these two are clearly seen as heads of the nations they represent. Israel (represented by Jacob) was chosen for noble purposes, while the Edomites (represented by Esau) were used for common purposes. Therefore, 1. He chose the Jewish people from all others, and revealed himself to them. Thus they were the in the vine, and all the other nations cut off. In otherwords, they were being invited to enter covenant with God, the others were not extended this invitation. 2. When the fullness of the time came he revealed himself also to the Gentiles, who gladly received the Gospel: and the Jews rejecting it, were cast off. Thus the elect became reprobate, and the reprobate, elect.

He told all mankind that the pardon of sin could and should be obtained ONLY by faith in his Son Jesus, and not by any obedience to any law. And the Jews, the descendants of Jacob, who rejected this way of salvation, became precisely like the Edomites were before and thus Romans 11 concludes by saying, "I have bound them all over to disobedience in order to show mercy to them all." This is clearly not just about the salvation of two brothers. Its about God's election of a nation to bring redemption to the world. It is about the cutting off of a nation that was first in the vine and the ingrafting of another. All for the purpose of showing mercy to them all.

Please understand that no one is saying that these verses don't affect individuals. I understand that nations are made up of individuals, but Paul is speaking in general about the obvious truth that Gentiles are coming to faith through the gospel and Isreal is stumbling over the gospel. They have not stumbled (or been hardened) beyond recovery (Rm. 11:11) but they might be provoked and saved (vs. 14). They can be grafted back into the vine if they leave their unbelief (vs. 23).



Rather the words mean what they say, "It [salvation] is not by man's desire or effort." We all agree on the "effort" part but notice that it isn't by our "desire" either. It has to be that way because without God's prior gracious gift of new life (i.e. "regeneration"), none of us would chose to believe, since "every inclination of [our] hearts is only evil all the time" (Gen. 6:5), and we're "dead" in our trespasses and sins.

See, I don't understand why Calvinists even point to this passage. Calvinists affirm that men are free to do what they desire. You all don't argue that men are saved apart from their desire to believe and repent. Calvinist have never claimed that men are drug kicking and screaming into heaven. We all affirm that men who believe do so by their will or desire. Thus we all affirm that salvation is conditioned upon the desire of a man to repent and believe. So to argue that this verse somehow supports Calvinism seems inconsistent. It is not salvation that is not dependent upon man's desire or effort. It's being in the vine. It's being invited to the banquet that Paul is talking about. It is not personal salvation through faith that is being addressed. It is the merciful invitation to enter covenant with God unto salvation that is being addressed. In a covenant their is always the invitation and then the response. The initiation is always made by God. That merciful initiation is what Paul is addressing here.

Read Romans 11 again and tell me what it means to be grafted in the vine? Does that represent being saved? If it does then why does it say some are cut off of the vine and why does it threaten that we could be cut off? Wouldn't that mean they could lose their salvation? To be in the vine means that you are being invited to enter covenant with God. To be cut off means you are no longer being invited, but that God has given you over to your own lusts. We see this in the parable of the banqueting table. The first group (representing Israel) is invited by the King, but they refuse to listen. They were "in the vine." They were "being shown mercy." They were being allowed to enter covenant with God. They rebelled and were cut off. Does "cut off" mean they lost their salvation? No, of course not. It means God gave them over to their own lusts. He stopped sending them the invitation. He sent the invitation to everyone else expect them. He cut Isreal off and grafted everyone else into the vine. Does that mean all Gentiles are saved? No, it means all Gentiles are being invited and thus shown mercy. But those being invited (grafted in) shouldn't get cocky because if they become hardened to the invitation and turn up their noses to it they will be cut off too. Read Romans 11 and tell me that is not what Paul is talking about here. Explain what Paul is meaning if this is not it.

I'm heading over to my parents for the Fouth of July celebration so I'll get back to some of the other post as soon as I can.

John said...

Hi Leighton,

Happy 4th!

You: "I meant that the interpretation of truth depends upon the perspective. That is what we are discussing."

Know, "interpretation of truth", whatever that means!, depends on a willingness to accept it.

Your other comments show that you really haven't read what I (or others) wrote. Further, your attempt to take the Acts 4 verse and say that God didn't determine their sin, makes no sense. If God's plan depended on them sinning, then they had to sin. It's true that they did so willingly. But the only way that they could both be "free" and that God could determine their sin (as Acts 4 says He did) would be that they were (as all people are) depraved. They would not chose any differently because they were murderers by nature.

It would be as if you gave me a choice between a green and red shirt. But if I had a violent allergy to red dye, an allergy that resulted in me hating red and all things red, then you could give me a free choice between the two shirts. You could even encourage and try to entice me to take the red shirt. But I would not. Because by nature I am a red-hater.

I don't think you've gotten beneath the Arminian presuppositions that you've absorbed.

John said...

Dear Leighton,

Hi. You wrote: "It is not salvation that is not dependent upon man's desire or effort."

Honestly, that simply is not a serious interpretation of Romans 9. "It", in Romans 9:16, is clearly salvation (or the election to salvation, the reception of mercy or no mercy on individuals, with Jacob, Esau, and Pharoah being the examples. Two of the examples, deep in the OT, are not Israelite. The election is not a mere "invitation", it is salvation itself. And it is not dependent on man's desire.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi John, hope your independence day celebration was good.

You: Know, "interpretation of truth", whatever that means!, depends on a willingness to accept it.

I agree. I used to accept Calvinism, so don't assume that I now question or even reject it because of some bias or unwillingness to accept "truth."

Your other comments show that you really haven't read what I (or others) wrote.

Broad sweeping accusations such as these don't get us anywhere John. I go through each and every one of your arguments point by point and answer them, yet you make a very broad statement like this dismissing all that I have written. With all due respect, that is just rude. Quote the words that I wrote and then explain what it is about my words that is inconsistent with what you have written. Frankly, you have dealt with very little of any of the arguments/questions I have put forward thus far. If you have a specific problem with something I have written or if you believe I have misrepresented your statements you need to draw attention to those specific quotes so that I can know what you are attempting to address.

Further, your attempt to take the Acts 4 verse and say that God didn't determine their sin, makes no sense. If God's plan depended on them sinning, then they had to sin.

If my plan to go to work tomorrow depended upon the sun coming up would I have to be the one who determined the sun to rise, or could I just foreknow that it was going to rise based upon my previous experience? Is it not possible for an all knowing, all powerful God to foreknow sinful choices of men and use those choices to fulfill his plans without having determined them to sin? I believe it is because the bible tells us that God wouldn't even tempt a man to sin, much less make him sin. Why would you want to impune God's holy nature?


Would you conclude that God determined their nature to be muderous? The same God that doesn't even tempt men to evil is now determining temptations and the response of those temptations? Is that your view of this passage?

It would be as if you gave me a choice between a green and red shirt. But if I had a violent allergy to red dye, an allergy that resulted in me hating red and all things red, then you could give me a free choice between the two shirts. You could even encourage and try to entice me to take the red shirt. But I would not. Because by nature I am a red-hater.

I don't think you've gotten beneath the Arminian presuppositions that you've absorbed.

You missed the whole point of the analogy. I'm not just talking about natural man's ability to believe. I'm attempting to move beyond that in order to understand your view of how God governs mankind's choices. If a man is choosing between two possibilities, neither of which are contradictory to his nature's ability, then is the man contra-causually free in that choice? In other words, if you were not allergic to red shirts or green shirts and nothing was preventing you from either choice then could you actually choose either one? In that choice are you "free?"

Honestly, that simply is not a serious interpretation of Romans 9. "It", in Romans 9:16, is clearly salvation (or the election to salvation, the reception of mercy or no mercy on individuals

To be saved, one must first be called or invited, right? There is an election to be invited. God first elected Israel, just as the banquet illustration in scripture explains. "First to the Jew and then the Gentile." That doesn't mean every Israelite is going to be saved. It just means all of them have been invited. God has initiated a covenant with Israel and they must individually respond.

God shows mercy to many people who are never saved. "Being shown mercy" doesn't necessarily equal salvation, just as "being hardened" doesn't necessarily equal damnation. In Romans 11:32 Paul explains that all have been hardened so that God might show mercy to all. He shows mercy by inviting men to the banquet. He chooses those who are clothed in righteousness through faith to be saved. Many are called, few are chosen.

You never responded to any of my questions. What does being grafted or cut off from the vine mean in Romans 11?



, with Jacob, Esau, and Pharoah being the examples. Two of the examples, deep in the OT, are not Israelite. The election is not a mere "invitation", it is salvation itself. And it is not dependent on man's desire.

Are you saying that God hasn't chosen who to invite? Are you claiming that there is no election in regard to who God invites to enter covenant with him? What does Paul mean when he says, "first to the Jew and then to the Gentile?" Why does Romans 9 spend so much time addressing national issues regarding Jews and Gentiles? Has God not chosen to send the Gospel invitation to Gentiles? Is this not a form of election, or are you just claiming that that is not what Paul is addressing here? If so, what is your support for that. Just saying that this is what you believe doesn't mean its true. You need to show why you believe that Paul is addressing more than God's choice to send the gospel invitation to the Gentiles.

Blessings to you.

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,

the post I wanted you to respond to was posted on July 1 at 1:14 am.

I think the problem here that we are running into in Rom 9-11 is that you are arguing a point about the passage that is not mutually exclusive to either the Arminian or Calvinist positions. We all agree that the passage is about cutting off Jews and grafting in Gentiles from Israel (the tree is the nation of God/Israel). God cuts off physical Israelites and grafts in Gentiles who are spiritually circumcised instead. The objection of the Jews is that God cannot do this because the Jews are His physical nation who received His law. Paul's argument throughout Romans has been that God can do this because 1) A person is a part of His community/His circumcision by faith, not law; and 2) because God is the one who chooses who will be saved. He predestines a person to be either cut off (if they are Jewish) from Israel or grafted in (if they are Gentile). He chooses who will be saved and who will be damned. Therefore, He can harden Jews if He wishes and make the bulk of Israel out of the Gentiles if He wishes.

But what you have been doing is trying to make Paul's argument concerning the Jew/Gentile issue as somehow contradicting an interpretation of Rom 9 like the one above. Rom 9 is the second supporting argument I mentioned above as to why God can make Israel out of Gentiles. (When I say "Israel" of course I mean His community/kingdom/spiritual nation, not the physical people group since that would be a contradiction).
Do you see how what you've been arguing does not negate what we have been arguing? Where Arminians might see one supporting argument to Paul's main argument (i.e., that God can make Israel out of Gentiles because one becomes an Israelite through faith), Calvinists see two supporting arguments for the main one (the one Arminians see in Rom 1-8 and the second one--that God chooses whomever He wishes to be saved and damned/to be a part of redeemed Israel and a part of the unredeemed nations---in Rom 9-11). So by merely pointing out Paul's main argument, and not arguing why there is only one supporting argument, rather than two, you really haven't touched the Calvinist position here. Do you see what I mean?

thanks again, Leighton. I hope that is coherent. God bless.

Leighton Flowers said...

Hi Bristopoly,

I found the post you were talking about...

You wrote: Your right that if you change the order you don't have to place words in, but you are changing the order. You are saying that those who believe are then given to the Son and those given then are saved. That is not what the text says though. The text says that no one can come/believe if the Father does not draw/give him first.

I do believe one must be drawn to Christ prior to coming or believing. How will they believe unless they hear? I have already explained that point. I believe the gospel does the drawing but you must recognize that Jesus' audience in John 6 is being blinded from the truth. Read Mark 4 and you will see that Christ is hiding the secrets of the kingdom from them in parables so that they won't be drawn to repentance. Only after Christ is raised up will he draw all men to himself. (Jn. 12:32)

You seem to equate God's giving man to Christ with God's drawing man. I don't. I think that may be the confusion. God draws men through the message of truth, once they believe they are "given to the son." But as I explained earlier, I am not sure that Christ is even attempting to teach that in this particular setting. He is speaking to Israel, who as a whole has been judicially blinded from the truth so that they won't believe. At the same time God has selected a remnant of Israel to be trained by the Son in order to establish the church. In John 17 it also refers to the apostles as those "given" to the Son by the Father, but then there are those who come to faith though their message as well. The historical context is very important. You must understand what it means for God to judicially hardened someone.

Judicial hardening is not God making men sin, it is simply blinding men from that which might convince them to repent from their rebellious condition. The gospel truth might convince someone to believe and be saved and if God doesn't want them to believe and be saved YET then he might blind them from that truth. That is what is going on during this time. This is why the Jews do not have ears to hear. They have been sent a "spirit of stupor," but this blinding is temporary and once the Jews are provoked to envy they still could be saved. (Rm. 11:14)


Now, Leighton, you did tell me that you believe that all men must be drawn and that this passage applies to all men, not just the Jews. But you keep going back to that as though it does just apply to the Jews/Apostles.

I refer to the context because it helps us to understand the original intent. That doesn't mean none of the principles apply. We still must be drawn to Christ, just as Paul says, "How will they believe unless they hear?" How will they come unless they are invited. The fact that the audience in John 6 is not being invited, but instead in being blinded from the invitation, is very important to understanding the original intent of this passage. Those "given" I believe are in reference to the apostles who are reserved from the blinding/hardening of Israel. The final verses support this idea when Christ even draws attention to the fact all the other Jews left except the twelve. They are the remnant reserved from Israel to be used for noble purposes in bringing the message to the world and establishing the church.

To go back to Eph 2 for a moment, I think something was missed there. The faith is given by God. This is not a faith that is mustered up from within the man. It is not God working on a faith the man already has but needs some help with. The text says "AND THIS NOT OF YOURSELVES. IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD..." The faith is not from you. It is not in you. It is not of you. It is given as a gift. So the faith must be given by God in order for someone to believe, and it is not from yourself.

As I have explained, I agree that faith is from God in that "faith comes from hearing God's word." If I said to you, "Don't drink the water, its poison." That truth once revealed to you could lead you to believe that the water is poison and thus lead you to pour it out. If that happened you would have no problem crediting me with saving your life and thanking me for that truth. You seem to think that only if I were to have grabbed the water irresistably out of you hand and proved to you it was poison could I be credited or thanked for my involvement. If I do it irresistably or simply by revealing truth and allowing you to respond freely it is still a gift from God. A gift doesn't have to be irresistably effectual for it to be a gift.

The ability for man to believe in someone for their salvation is a gift from God, but some place that faith in Buddha or in the works of the Law. Only faith placed in Christ through the gospel's revelation is salvific, but that doesn't mean people aren't able to believe in false gods.

Why do you assume that the Koran's words has more power to lead lost men to faith in its message than the Bible's words have to lead lost men to faith in its message? You may deny this but think about it. If 1000 unregenerate people heard the Bible not a single one of them could believe it according to your dogma, but they could believe the Koran. Why is the Bible's message less accessible to our abilities to accept its truth than that of any other doctrine?

Thanks brother

bristopoly said...

Hi Leighton,
I thought you grew weary of having to read through my laborious communication skills.:)

"Judicial hardening is not God making men sin, it is simply blinding men from that which might convince them to repent from their rebellious condition. The gospel truth might convince someone to believe and be saved and if God doesn't want them to believe and be saved YET then he might blind them from that truth."

Actually, this is begging the question. Judicial hardening is just that: hardening. Making concrete/stone what is already there. So the blinding is done as a slap in the face by God so that, even if it were possible for them to believe, they can't. God does not even allow them to hear while hearing. That is only for His elect. But it is real clear that the hardening is of something already there. Therefore, the blinding/making them deaf is so that they are solidified in the rebellion in which they lay. So they would reject the Gospel if it was given to them without hardening. That mindset of rejecting God's truth is just solidified so that it is set in stone and thus is a statement of their destined punishment as well.


"I do believe one must be drawn to Christ prior to coming or believing. How will they believe unless they hear? I have already explained that point. I believe the gospel does the drawing but you must recognize that Jesus' audience in John 6 is being blinded from the truth. Read Mark 4 and you will see that Christ is hiding the secrets of the kingdom from them in parables so that they won't be drawn to repentance. Only after Christ is raised up will he draw all men to himself. (Jn. 12:32)"

1. I think the problem I have with this is that you seem to be indicating that the drawing is simply God not hardening the indivdual as the gospel is presented. But ekluw "drawing" means pulling something toward something else. And the word here is used to refer to a pulling to Christ by the Father where the one being pulled is passive, not synergistically coming. The word appears a total of 8 times in the NT (half of which are in John): Peter draws a sword (Jn 18:10); The disciples draw/drag up a net with fish (Jn 21:6, 11); Paul and Silas are dragged into the courtyard by hostile men (Acts 16:19); Paul is dragged out of the temple by hostile Jews (21:30); The oppressed are dragged into court (Jms 2:6). In every instance, the thing being drawn is pulled somewhere passively. So in Jn 6:44, there is no reason to see the man as simply hearing the Gospel and able to respond as long as he isn't hardened. That would have the man working together with the Gospel call in order to come to Christ. But as I just said, the man here isn't doing that. Christ is very clear that those who come to Him have to be drawn/dragged to Him by the Father.
2. The text literally says in 6:44, that "no one HAS the power to come to Me unless the Father draws Him." So the power to come to Christ is not something the man exercises once He hears the Gospel. He doesn't have it in order to exercise it. It must be given to Him (see below my comments on Eph 2).
3. If the Gospel gives him the power itself (as though they are magical words), then they should give this power to everyone who hears it. However in this passage, it is clear that everyone drawn comes to Christ and is saved.

"You seem to equate God's giving man to Christ with God's drawing man. I don't. I think that may be the confusion. God draws men through the message of truth, once they believe they are "given to the son." But as I explained earlier, I am not sure that Christ is even attempting to teach that in this particular setting. He is speaking to Israel, who as a whole has been judicially blinded from the truth so that they won't believe. At the same time God has selected a remnant of Israel to be trained by the Son in order to establish the church. In John 17 it also refers to the apostles as those "given" to the Son by the Father, but then there are those who come to faith though their message as well. The historical context is very important. You must understand what it means for God to judicially hardened someone."

Actually, the text equates the drawing and the giving by what is said within it.

Those who are given, those who come, those who believe, and those who are drawn are all said to be "raised up on the last day." So we are talking about the same people. Jn 6:44 indicates that if one is drawn by the Father, he will be raised up on the last day. So everyone drawn is raised up/saved.
But even if you want to argue that they are not equated. The real issue is that one must be given by the Father. In 6:37, ALL who are given then come and are then saved. Notice how you are changing the logic of the passage by rewording it again. You have "all who are drawn come to Me and are then given by the Father." That is not what the text says. It says that no one has the power to come unless/if not/except for the one contingency of him being given first. So the coming cannot precede the giving, which is what you keep doing here. You would have the text say "All who come to Me are then given by the Father." That of course rearranges the whole text. That's like me taking Jn 14:6 and saying that Christ is not the only way because the text just says "The one who comes to the Father can then choose to come through Christ." But the text says the opposite. No one can get to the Father unless he first goes through the Son. Likewise, no one can come to the Son and be saved unless He first is given by the Father. And ALL who are given WILL come to Christ and be saved, which is why this is not talking about the disciples exclusively. Why does John use the aspect of expectation, the future if this is talking about the disciples who have already come? This is talking more generically about those who are given/come/are saved, and therefore the specific application is given to the Jews in this context as to why they don't believe. Why? Because everyone who is given by the Father comes to Christ and is saved and the implication is therefore that they have not been given by the Father.

"As I have explained, I agree that faith is from God in that "faith comes from hearing God's word." If I said to you, "Don't drink the water, its poison." That truth once revealed to you could lead you to believe that the water is poison and thus lead you to pour it out. If that happened you would have no problem crediting me with saving your life and thanking me for that truth. You seem to think that only if I were to have grabbed the water irresistably out of you hand and proved to you it was poison could I be credited or thanked for my involvement. If I do it irresistably or simply by revealing truth and allowing you to respond freely it is still a gift from God. A gift doesn't have to be irresistably effectual for it to be a gift."

Ah, here is the problem. You are defining faith as the truth that is revealed. The truth that is revealed is the OBJECT of faith, not faith itself. This is a crucial error. Rom 1-3 indicates that truth revealed is always rejected by man because of his rebellious nature. Your analogy assumes that what you are giving me is truth and I am exercising faith that I have already in it. But Eph 2 states that "faith" is that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of men's actions lest any of them should boast. This faith according to Hebrews is produced/originated and perfected by Christ. So it is not just the truth supplied by God. It is the belief in that truth. AND you said:

"The ability for man to believe in someone for their salvation is a gift from God, but some place that faith in Buddha or in the works of the Law. Only faith placed in Christ through the gospel's revelation is salvific, but that doesn't mean people aren't able to believe in false gods."

But the context of the faith given in the Bible is not a generic one, but one given in the context for those who will believe the Gospel. So the faith that is a gift is placed in the mix with the grace and salvation that are given along with it as a gift. They are all one package, not separate packages which one can use anywhich way they like. So the idea that God provides a generic faith with which one can go and believe in Buddha or the Koran is unbiblical in light of the passages we are discussing.

"Why do you assume that the Koran's words has more power to lead lost men to faith in its message than the Bible's words have to lead lost men to faith in its message? You may deny this but think about it. If 1000 unregenerate people heard the Bible not a single one of them could believe it according to your dogma, but they could believe the Koran. Why is the Bible's message less accessible to our abilities to accept its truth than that of any other doctrine?"

1. I believe that God's Words have infinite power to accomplish ALL that He purposes to do with it. That's why I can't be an Arminian who believes that it may not have more power than the will of a mere human. I believe instead that it goes forth and saves all those who have been given/drawn by God and hardens all who have not. So it PERFECTLY accomplishes what He wishes it to accomplish. I don't believe the words have some sort of life on their own apart from God's Spirit doing something to the soil of man's mind (either making it good soil or making sure it remains as it is: bad).

2. I think you need to understand what I've tried to say before which is that I believe every man has the power to exercise faith in what is false because he loves what is false and does not wish to subject himself to God. So he can believe in the Koran all day long. That is consistent with his sin nature. The problem is that he is so hostile toward the real God who has a claim on his life, that he does not have the TYPE of faith that includes a desire/love for the one TRUE GOD. This is the type of faith that must be given. To me, this objection is the equivalent of saying: "Why do you suppose a fish can breathe water and yet it is not able to breathe air, which is lighter than water?"
Of course, one is consistent with its nature and one is not. Yes, both are breathing, but the fish does not have the TYPE of respistory system it needs to breathe air. It only has the power to breathe water.




To summarize,
the texts indicate that:
1. The power of coming to Christ is not possessed by man (establishing the T).
2. The drawing is done upon a passive object (I).
3. The giving must precede the coming and all given come and not one of them is lost (therefore the U, I, and P are established).
4. The future is used of those given and coming and being saved. Hence this is not talking about the disciples exclusively since they have already come.
5. The TYPE of faith that one must have to desire God's ruling presence in one's life must be given and produced by Christ (because the man does not have it). If man had it, it would not need to be given and produced by Christ who is external to Him.
6. Faith/Believing/Trusting/Placing Allegiance In is what one does to the truth revealed. It is not the truth revealed itself which is the object of faith, not faith itself.

Two side notes:

1. John 12 would not be talking about all men who hear the Gospel, since God is still hardening after the cross and pas in John is most likely referring to Jew and Gentile (all kinds of men, i.e., Gentiles, not just Jews).

2. I think at this point you need to look at your hermeneutics. You seem to be using the idea that the hardening of the Jews is only to save those very Jews who are hardened. You are assuming this, but have given to evidence that the very ones who are hardened are meant to be saved by this hardening. It is like the Scripture saying that the ball is a color. You then say its blue even though other Scriptures indicate that its red. Your setting up an awful lot based on an idea that is not proven.
Secondly, the Scripture indicates that the hardening has happened to the particular individuals who are hardened SO THAT THEY MIGHT NOT BE HEALED/SAVED. And we see from Scripture that the Scribes and Pharisees who are hardened are condemned to hell by Christ. That doesn't indicate anything like what you are proposing as God's purpose in hardening individuals. Instead, good hermeneutics would be to take what is known about the individual hardenings and then state that this text must be talking about Israel generically in the future ("until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled"---how could that possibly be the Jews in Christ's day anyway if they have to wait for the times of the Gentiles to be fulfilled?). Either way, I think a careful examination of the hermeneutic that you are employing when you do that would be beneficial. You are trying to counter an explicit statement with an improbable interpretation which contradicts it.

I would write more, but I think this is getting too long. So here just some thoughts. God grant you wisdom in all things. Blessings to you.

Leighton Flowers said...

Your wrote: Hi Leighton,
I thought you grew weary of having to read through my laborious communication skills.:)

Hello brother, if you haven’t already noticed I take time to respond because I travel quite a bit and stay pretty busy. Thanks for your patience.

I wrote: "Judicial hardening is not God making men sin, it is simply blinding men from that which might convince them to repent from their rebellious condition. The gospel truth might convince someone to believe and be saved and if God doesn't want them to believe and be saved YET then he might blind them from that truth."

You replied: Actually, this is begging the question. Judicial hardening is just that: hardening. Making concrete/stone what is already there. So the blinding is done as a slap in the face by God so that, even if it were possible for them to believe, they can't. God does not even allow them to hear while hearing. That is only for His elect. But it is real clear that the hardening is of something already there. Therefore, the blinding/making them deaf is so that they are solidified in the rebellion in which they lay.

I agree that blinding them is solidifying them in their rebellion, that is what I have said time and time again. They are already rebellious and God is simply blinding them from that which could cause them to change their current course. But you also said, “even if it were possible for them to believe” as if to say it really isn’t possible for them to believe nor has it ever been, but that is NOT what the scripture plainly says brother. Read Mark 4 and tell me what it says. It says that God hid the gospel in parables so that might not repent. Read Acts 28 where its tell us they became hardened OTHERWISE they might have seen, understood and repented. You assume that God was keeping them from doing something they were born unable to do in the first place but there is NO support for that assumption. In fact, just the opposite is stated: “Otherwise they might hear, see, understand and repent.”

You: So they would reject the Gospel if it was given to them without hardening. That mindset of rejecting God's truth is just solidified so that it is set in stone and thus is a statement of their destined punishment as well.

Where is your biblical support for this assumption that they could not have accepted the gospel apart from this hardening? Thanks


1. I think the problem I have with this is that you seem to be indicating that the drawing is simply God not hardening the indivdual as the gospel is presented.

No, drawing is the invitation of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the powerfully revealed truth of the gospel of Christ, which has not been sent into the world at this time in history. In fact, the message is being hidden in parables and Jews are being sent a “spirit of stupor” so that this message can’t be understood. The gospel draws men to salvation and that message of the kingdom is being hidden from the Jews. So, drawing is not merely God’s refusing to hardening someone, drawing is the invitation clearly heard, seen and understood. Hardening prevents this drawing of the gospel from having any positive effect.

If the Gospel gives him the power itself (as though they are magical words), then they should give this power to everyone who hears it. However in this passage, it is clear that everyone drawn comes to Christ and is saved.

Jesus said, “The words I speak to you are spirit and life.” Paul taught that we are in bondage but that “the truth shall set us free.” Call it “magical” if you wish, but the bible calls the words of the gospel “the power of God unto salvation.” Scripture is also compared to a sword that cut deep into the soul. Must we examine all the texts that speak of the power of the word? Words of God have power, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are irresistible as your statement above seems to assume. The passage never states that everyone drawn will certainly come, but just that they are enabled. Those who do will be saved, and once again you must remember the context of Jesus’ words. He is speaking to the Jews who have all been hardened except for a remnant who are being hand selected by Christ himself to carry the message of redemption to the world.


Those who are given, those who come, those who believe, and those who are drawn are all said to be "raised up on the last day." So we are talking about the same people. Jn 6:44 indicates that if one is drawn by the Father, he will be raised up on the last day. So everyone drawn is raised up/saved.

John 12:32 says that Christ will draw all men to himself once he is raised up. He does this when he begins the church age by sending out the apostles to proclaim his truth to every creature. You read too much into John 6 by ignoring the context of Christ’s message to the hardened Israelites. We all agree that everyone who is drawn and who responds in faith will be raised up, but it begs the question to assume that this drawing is the irresistible cause of the faith response.

But even if you want to argue that they are not equated. The real issue is that one must be given by the Father. In 6:37, ALL who are given then come and are then saved.

Again, remember the context of Christ’s words. Like I said before this could simply be referring to those who have faith as being those who are “given by the father,” as some argue. But I think Christ is probably more specifically referring to the remnant of Israel who have been uniquely hand picked by God to be the foundation for the church, his bride. In fact, in John 17, John uses this phrase “given by the father” again to refer to the apostles. This could be simply a way to signify the unique role these divinely appointed apostles played in this redemption process.

And ALL who are given WILL come to Christ and be saved, which is why this is not talking about the disciples exclusively. Why does John use the aspect of expectation, the future if this is talking about the disciples who have already come?

Remember at end of this discourse Christ turns to the apostles and asks them if they are going to leave him too. There is still a “future” expectation being expressed even in regard to what will happen with his remnant. Though God knew and so do we now, there was still the anticipation at that time as to who would stick with Christ unto the end. Not even the most faithful ones did stick with him to the end after all, it was only after his being raised up and restoring these men were they explained the mysterious fully and sent to share them with the world.

Ah, here is the problem. You are defining faith as the truth that is revealed. The truth that is revealed is the OBJECT of faith, not faith itself. This is a crucial error.

No, you completely missed my point. I never defined faith as the truth itself. I have only argued that truth is all that is needed to produce faith.

Rom 1-3 indicates that truth revealed is always rejected by man because of his rebellious nature.

Where? Paul said, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Apparently he didn’t reject God’s revealed truth. Romans 1-3 teaches us that righteousness cannot ever be attained by works because we always fall short of God’s glory, but in 3:21 Paul speaks of a righteousness apart from the works of the law by which men may be saved. There is NOTHING which even comes close to indicating this righteousness through faith is somehow unable to be attained.


I wrote: "Why do you assume that the Koran's words has more power to lead lost men to faith in its message than the Bible's words have to lead lost men to faith in its message? You may deny this but think about it. If 1000 unregenerate people heard the Bible not a single one of them could believe it according to your dogma, but they could believe the Koran. Why is the Bible's message less accessible to our abilities to accept its truth than that of any other doctrine?"

1. I believe that God's Words have infinite power to accomplish ALL that He purposes to do with it. That's why I can't be an Arminian who believes that it may not have more power than the will of a mere human. I believe instead that it goes forth and saves all those who have been given/drawn by God and hardens all who have not. So it PERFECTLY accomplishes what He wishes it to accomplish.

You say you believe God’s words have power, but they really don’t. All those unregenerate men who are born totally depraved prove that God’s words have no power to accomplish anything for them. The power in your system in not in the gospel words, but in the work of the so called “irresistible grace” or “effectual calling” which is never expounded upon in the scripture itself. Funny how God put so much in the scripture about the power of his words when the real power lies in some unfounded secret calling never expounded upon in the text.

Two side notes:

1. John 12 would not be talking about all men who hear the Gospel, since God is still hardening after the cross and pas in John is most likely referring to Jew and Gentile (all kinds of men, i.e., Gentiles, not just Jews).

I agree that he could likely be referring to “all kinds of men” both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews continued in their hardening while the Gentiles are being ingrafted into the vine (Romans 11). This only strengthens my point concerning the national hardening of one nation over the rest. Explain what the purpose is in God’s blinding Israel when according to your view every person of every nation is born in that condition.

2. I think at this point you need to look at your hermeneutics. You seem to be using the idea that the hardening of the Jews is only to save those very Jews who are hardened. You are assuming this, but have given to evidence that the very ones who are hardened are meant to be saved by this hardening. It is like the Scripture saying that the ball is a color. You then say its blue even though other Scriptures indicate that its red. Your setting up an awful lot based on an idea that is not proven.
Secondly, the Scripture indicates that the hardening has happened to the particular individuals who are hardened SO THAT THEY MIGHT NOT BE HEALED/SAVED. And we see from Scripture that the Scribes and Pharisees who are hardened are condemned to hell by Christ. That doesn't indicate anything like what you are proposing as God's purpose in hardening individuals. Instead, good hermeneutics would be to take what is known about the individual hardenings and then state that this text must be talking about Israel generically in the future ("until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled"---how could that possibly be the Jews in Christ's day anyway if they have to wait for the times of the Gentiles to be fulfilled?).

Read Romans 11:14 and tell me why Paul indicates that his current ministry might provoke some of his Jewish kinsmen to be saved if indeed he didn’t believe that those hardened might leave their unbelief and be saved at that time in history. What role do you believe envy to play the salvation of the Jews spoken of in this text.

I would write more, but I think this is getting too long. So here just some thoughts. God grant you wisdom in all things. Blessings to you.

And to you brother.