Sunday, June 04, 2006

Submit a question for the discussion on election

"Reaching Today's World through Differing Views of Election" is the theme of the breakout session to be led by Drs. Paige Patterson and Al Mohler at the upcoming Pastors' Conference in Greensboro. Questions are being solicited for possible use in a a Q&A forum at the conference. Fill out the online form to submit your question.

HT: MarieP and Dave Roberts


G. Burch said...

The only question I have that has not been suffiently answered (for me anyway) is how sincere is the invitation or the command--(I realize there's some debate as to which one is employed when the gospel is given, however, whether it is a command or an invitation does not seem to matter because there is that outward call that goes out all...correct?)-- that sinners repent and turn to Jesus if the sinners are incapable of repenting and turning. Could this be equated to me walking to a pond where there are fish and me telling the fish if you want to enjoy the same pleasures I do follow me? Well, first of all they can't understand me and secondly, they can't follow because of some biological limitations. Would my offer to them be sincere? And to compund the problem I say if you do you will all suffer eternal conscience torment in hell.

scripturesearcher said...

My question to Paige Patterson has been sent. Here it is:

"Dr. Patterson, when you went to serve at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I believe you were asked to sign the historic ABSTRACT OF PRINCIPLES, and by signing you agreed that you thought the doctrinal statements in the AOP were scripturally correct.

Do you continue to agree with the doctrinal position of the ABSTRACT OF PRINCIPLES used at the SBTS and the SEBTS?

A simple YES or NO will suffice, sir."


Hopefully, due to time limitation, there will be no equivocating, no bloviating and no pontificating!

I can hope and pray, can't I?

Tom said...

G. Burch:

Good question. Why don't you submit it? Here is my quick attempt at a response. The invitation/command to come to Christ is indeed a bona fide offer of salvation because those who heed it are saved. Given what the Bible says about man's spiritual inability (John 6:44; Romans 8:7-8, etc.) it does, on one level, seem ludicrous, doesn't it, to make such an invitation? But it is no more so than when Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take up your bed and walk." The man could not do that! If he could, he would not have needed Jesus to tell him to do it. Or when Jesus stood before Lazarus' tomb and told him to come forth. If Lazarus had the ability to come forth, he would not have needed Jesus to command him to do it. Here is the point: the power is in the call. When the Spirit owns the Word with that kind of power, the one who receives that Word is "effectually called" (this is the meaning of the so-called "irresitible grace"). The Word, wielded by the Spirit as His sword, quickens spiritually dead sinners, enabling them to hear and heed the call to repent and believe.

Jack Maddox said...

Never mind Dr.'s Patterson and Mohler..

my man Dr A. just knocked it out of da PARK BABY!!!!!


Sam Hughey said...


Please allow me to respond to your statements according to the former days of my free-will theism.

No free-will theist will deny that a person cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws/calls them. However, they will disagree with you that there is salvific power in the calling. They believe the Father calls everybody and offers salvation to ALL but only those who willingly choose to receive it will be saved. Therefore, to the free-will theist, salvific power is in the 'will' of the ungodly who is enabled to choose Christ or reject Him at the time of the calling (not to repent and believe as a result of conversion). To the free-will theist, conversion is the result of the ungodly person's decision to allow Jesus to be Lord of their life.

The free-will theist views Romans 8:7,8 as the person who is being called and enabled to 'make a decision'. They believe this person is indeed 'spiritual minded' not 'carnal minded' because the Father is spirit and calls via the Spirit.

Sam Hughey

hashbrown said...

I've already submitted about four or five questions, which really are variants of the same question.
(hopefully one will make it through)

Basically I've asked Mohler to share what he thinks are the most common straw man arguments that are made against Calvinism from the pulpit.

Tony said...

For me there are two issues that are not answered very well by those who dislike the Doctrines of Grace: 1) Is man spiritually dead, as scripture seems very clear, and cannot help himself or just sick? 2) What happened at the cross with regards to atonement and propitiation?

While the Nature of man is vitally important as dead men do not help themselves I do not know how anyone gets past the cross without seeing that Christ died savingly for certain people. If as numerous scriptures speak of ( Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 1 Jn 45:10) Christ was an actual propitiation for sin then how is that He was a propitiation for all? If for all then some in hell have their sins paid for. In conversations I have even herd someone simply want to not focus on the atonement, which seems one way of avoiding the issue. The question then is how does one view the atonement and propitiation from scripture, not philosophy.

Is there a better way to word this as I may send it in even though I cannot be there?

Ben said...

Has anyone heard whether the Pastor's Conference sessions will be webcasted? said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
YnottonY said...

Hi G. Burch,

You may want to look into the theological distinction between natural ability and moral ability. When Calvinists say that command does not presuppose ability, they mean moral ability. All men are constituted by God to make choices. All men have a faculty called a "will." Within the capacity of their natures they are capable of willing. This is natural or constitutional ability. The problem with lost sinners is not so much their "will power" (their faculty to will) but their "won't power" (their corrupt affections prevent right willing). They lack moral ability since they are sinners by nature. Only God can free a person from bondage to sin by giving them a new heart or affections in order to want to will rightly into Christ by faith. See Jonathan Edwards' work on The Freedom of the Will for more on this distinction.

In the analogies that we make to talk about the issue of "ability," be careful to observe where the analogy falls short. Physical inabiity is sometimes used to illustrate the disabling power of sin, but it does so by way of analogy. In any analogy, there are two or more things compared that have both similarities (areas of continuity or an univocal aspect) and differences (areas of discontinuity or an equivocal aspect). Physical inabilities may help to illustrate the cripling effects of sin in our lives, but the analogy also falls short in seeming to suggest that we have no ability at all. It's possible to press the analogy too far so that the biblical teaching of moral inability is pushed to also mean natural inability as well (as if man does not have a will that makes choices, albeit choices antithetical to God's preceptive will). This is why the expression "Total Inability" can be misleading. I would prefer the expression "Total Moral Inability" so that the point can be explained better.

I hope that helps you some.

"Tony" brought up the issue of Double Jeopardy and Christ's death. To read where some Reformed men have criticized that argument, read my post here (especially the comments section):

Double Jeopardy?

YnottonY said...

Dr. Ascol said:

"The invitation/command to come to Christ is indeed a bona fide offer of salvation because those who heed it are saved."

I would say that the bona fide offer of salvation can be made because 1) Christ suffered sufficiently for all mankind as Calvin (echoing scripture) even says, and 2) God indescriminately commands all alike through the external call of the gospel to come and eat Christ's flesh. There is a real remedy (real sufficiency) available to all sinners in Christ's penal satisfaction because he substituted for all mankind (being the last Adam) when he died, as Anselm argues :-)

Everyone who hears the external gospel call (whether elect or non-elect) can know that it is a bona fide or well-meant gospel offer because Christ suffered sufficiently for them as expressed in the revealed will of God. The warrant to come is in both the real sufficiency and in the command, not just one or the other (or in the bare command only as some Calvinists argue).

YnottonY said...

My question for Patterson would be:

If Paul held to a non-Calvinistic view of God's will as some argue, then why does he have to anticipate receiving the very objection that Calvinists get all the time to their doctrine, even from people you intimately train in seminary Dr. Patterson???? Why would Paul have to anticipate this objection if he was teaching something other than what Calvinists teach?

NKJ Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"

Tom said...


I agree wholeheartedly with both of your comments--about the nature of ability and the basis on which we can know that the invitation to salvation is bona fide. I tried to hint at both with my statement. The fact that any sinner ever gets saved testifies to both natural ability and an adequate atonement. Of course, as you noted, many Reformed folk do not like either of those constructs when discussing depravity or atonement. I am not among them.

Mr. Min said...


Ephesians 2:3 states that the Elect were once children of wrath even as the rest. If the Elect were predestined to be rescued from God's wrath, then in what way is the wrath of God real to them before the Elect become saved?

Do the Elect experience the wrath of God before they are saved? And if so, what are the experiences of God's wrath here on earth?

If not, then what real danger is there on the Elect in being children of wrath just as the rest if they do not experience God's wrath here on earth?

YnottonY said...

Hi Tom,

I am glad to hear about your moderation on those points. In what I have read from you on the issue of Calvinism, your viewpoint seems very refined.

I would like to have an extensive conversation with you on the nature and design of Christ's death, but I suspect that you might be too busy for such a thing. You have family and ministry responsibilities that I do not have as a single person with no official position (not an elder or deacon) in a local church.

With regard to my statements regarding Christ's death, I am deliberately contrasting my view with the popular Owenic model. If one reads Owen carefully, one will see that he uses modal logic to talk about sufficency. In other words, Christ's death "could have been" sufficient for all in another logically possible world, but it is not really sufficient for all in terms of what he satisfied for. Owenic sufficiency is a bare and hypothetical sufficiency, as opposed to a real or ordained suffiency for all. In Owenism, there is a limitation in the substitutionary satisfaction itself (only the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ), and not merely in the special decree and application. He is only the last Adam for the elect in terms of his penal substitution. This is a kind of limited imputation, as opposed to an unlimited imputation of classical Calvinism, as well as your exegesis of crucial passages of scripture.

If you get what I am saying about the nature of Christ's sufficiency, then you would have to reject the Owenic paradigm, along with his Double Jeopardy and Triple Choice arguments. So, while I know you reject Tom Nettles' limited sufficiency argument, I wonder if you have also rejected the Owenic presuppositions undergirding it. If you did that, then your Calvinism would be SIGNIFICANTLY different from James White's and others.

Since I have talked to alot of people on the internet who are making grave theological mistakes in going too high in their Calvinism, I tend to be a kind of whistle blower. If I sense that someone is starting to go out of bounds so as to open the door to a hyper-Calvinistic rejection of the well-meant offer, I want to point out the differences. I want to point out the theological banana peels on the ground so that the undiscerning don't slip on them.

Given my unlimited imputation viewpoint as it touches real sufficiency, I can Calvinistically say the following kosmos ("world") passage refers to all mankind:

NKJ John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

As you well know, these are areas that the Caners are going to go in the upcoming debate. White's responses will be Owenic, and even Gill-like in exegesis. I am curious to see where you would come down on these points. I am also curious to see where men like Albert Mohler come down, but I am suspect that he would be in sync with the high Calvinism so prevalent today.

I should probably restrain myself from describing how I see Paige Patterson's theology. I will just leave you with this: I remember him recommending some works by Charles Finney from the chapel pulpit at Criswell College :-(

YnottonY said...

I may be the king of typing and editing mistakes. For example, this phrase:

" well as your exegesis of crucial passages of scripture."

Should have been at the end of this sentence:

"If you did that, then your Calvinism would be SIGNIFICANTLY different from James White's and others, as well as your exegesis of crucial passages of scripture."

YnottonY said...

Hi Mr Min,

First, the text of Ephesians plainly states that the believing elect were at one point children of wrath by nature, even as the rest. It does not say they are in danger of being children of wrath, but that they already were when in unbelief.

Second, wrath is not something merely future. God can and does inflict punishment in this world as a result of his displeasure with disobedience, but in varying degrees. Hell is a place where the wrath of God is poured out with no gracious restraint.

With that said, the following comments came to mind:

Even though God has determined all that comes to pass, it does not negate the significance of what transpires in history. There is a danger among some "Calvinists" of making the eternal the real and time or history the unreal. It causes some significant "already-not yet" confusions in their thinking.

Your questions about the elect have a correlation with the issue of the non-elect and common grace. Since they are appointed unto wrath in their sin, in what way is the love of God real to them? Are they experiencing sincere love before they are finally damned? If so, how would we describe this love?

Do they ever really have any hope of being saved? The above issues are why some hyper-Calvinists deny common grace and the well-meant offer. It’s why Peter Toon talks about hyper-Calvinism as putting “excessive emphasis on acts belonging to God’s immanent being – the immanent acts of God, eternal justification, eternal adoption, and the eternal covenant of grace.”

As you can see, I have inverted your questions and asked about the non-elect.

Anyway, to address your questions, I think the following are biblical parameters that should guide the discussion:

1) The bible plainly says that the believing elect were by nature children of wrath, even as the others (all humanity). To deny this or to try to weasle and wiggle out of it is to go against inspired scripture. Some men have a sacred theological system to protect that inclines or tempts them to do this very thing.

2) Our relationship to God changes through history. We were once alienated from him, but now we have been brought near through faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit. God's atemporal existence and immutability does not negate the truth that he can think of us as enemies at one point in time, or think of us as adopted sons and friends at another point in time. God is a living being that really interacts with humanity in reciprocal relations. For more on this, see John Frame's work on The Doctrine of God, or his book No Other God. You may also consult Bruce Ware's work on the Immutability of God. You will find Ware's journal article on this in JETS, but he has written about it in many places in his critiques of Open View Theism.

With all of that said, I think that both the unbelieving elect and non-elect (who will always be unbelieving) are subject to divine punishment in this life that is not equivalent to his wrath in hell. In fact, in the gospel message, we find sincere threatenings or warnings of future divine wrath. To all we can say, "If you do not repent, you will perish." This is even true of the elect who do not yet believe. In so far as any human being is under wrath prior to physical death, the same can be said of the unbelieving elect. Once you’ve answered the question as to how the non-elect in this world (who do not believe) can be under divine wrath as seen in biblical examples, then you will also have your question answered concerning the unbelieving elect. None of them experience the wrath of hell in this world, but both can experience restrained wrath and punishments, resulting in final condemnation if one dies in their sins apart from Christ.

Tom said...


I will have to take your word for it regarding Owen as it has been awhile since I read his Death of Death, but I remember being satisfied with his arguments.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Sola Gratia said...


I was readng somthing from an arminian website and he was tryinh to refute the doctrine of election. He was talking about God forknowing and determining or somthing. I was wondering if I could have a little help in that area.