Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What We Wish the Liberty Students Had Heard

James White has provided a free audio file of a presentation that he and I gave at his recent Pulpit Crimes Conference. We each gave a brief overview of material that we had planned to present at the debate on Calvinism that was sabotaged at the last minute by the other side. After this, we interacted with clips of sermons preached by Ergun and Emir Caner. As James said on his blog, "This isn't the same as a debate, but it is about as close as you can get."

44 comments:

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom:

Thanks for doing this. I look forward to listening to it...and to reading the Abstract of Systematic Theology I recently ordered!

Thanks be to God for men such as yourself and Dr. White whom God has called out to proclaim the truth of Scripture today.

SDG,
dbh

Bartimaeus said...

I have sent E-mails to both Ergun and Emir Caner. In that E-mail I ask then 12 questions that I would ask if I were a student of theirs in one of their clases. Yu can read these questions on my blog
http://reformation-truth.blogspot.com/
For those of you who dont enjoy my blog you here are the 12 questiosn





According to the following scripture in Daniel 4:35 "all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him,"What have you done?" is God’s will thwarted by man’s libertarian freewill?

Dr Caner Does God have exhaustive knowledge events past, present and future?


Dr Caner if God had exhaustive foreknowledge from the foundation of the world and he knew all the events that would occur are those events fixed or may some event occur that would prevent that event from occurring?


Dr Caner if God knows from the foundation of the world all those that will accept him and those that reject him why did he create those that reject him knowing that they would spend eternity in hell?


Also if these events are fixed from the foundation of the world and God has created certain people knowing that they will spend eternity in hell how is that any different than if he created them for reprobation?


Dr Caner both Exodus 9:16 and Romans 9:17 state that Pharaoh was raised up for the purpose that God may be glorified through his destruction. Was God glorified when he destroyed Pharaoh and sent him to hell?


Dr Caner on April 9th 2006 in the evening service at the Thomas Road Baptist Church “the reason God hated Esau was because of what Esau was” How do you reconcile that statement with what is stated in the previous verses and I quote "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call (Romans (9;11 ESV)?


Dr Caner according to John 1:13 “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And Romans 9:14 through 16 states “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” In light of these scriptures could you please explain how does an unregenerate person have the ability to exercise saving faith?


Dr Caner if God is glorified when he saves a sinner by his grace is God also glorified when he sends a sinner to hell by his justice?


Dr Caner if God had left all mankind to perish in their sin would he have been unjust in doing so?


Dr Caner Both you and your brother have publicly stated God would never command all persons to repent and believe the Gospel if they did not have the ability to repent and Your brother stated on October 15th of 2006 at Thomas Road Baptist church that King Agrippa was not punished for his sins but for his rejection of Christ. In the light of these two statements how can God if he is just send a person who has never heard the Gospel to Hell?


One Final question Dr Caner. You have stated that “you were elected because you had selected”. In light of that statement Dr Caner were you any smarter any better any less sinful any more spiritually inclined than the millions who were not elected because they had not selected?

I would erge all to lovers of the doctrines of grace to copy these questions and forward them to Dr Caner at his E-mail Hopefully Dr Caner will take time to consider the implications of his position or at least answer them in an open forum.

irreverend fox said...

Tom,

great presentation...no wonder the Caner twins ducked out...

Nathan White said...

Thanks for making this available, Tom and James. I'll be sure to pass it along.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

SDG,
Nathan

Highland Host said...

Excellent. I am amazed by these free-willers' insistence that no man is damned for sin, but for not believing in Christ. As Dr. White said, isn't unbelief a sin? Or did Christ die for every sin EXCEPT unbelief? And in that case, how is the PAST unbelief of every Christian dealt with?

scripturesearcher said...

Gotta have copies - audio and video - please give the prices of both.

And your readers will want to procure a CD copy of John MacArthur's QUESTIONS ABOUT ELECTION from www.gty.org

PERSEVERE!

Deb Jones said...

On behalf of the Reformed students at Liberty--thank you!

I'm still bummed that you two weren't able to come and do it in person, though. :( Maybe a trip to Lynchburg can still be in order? :)

allofgrace said...

I listened to it today...very enlightening and edifying. Thanks to you both for putting that together. I was wondering if anyone knew where I could obtain a copy of the entire sermon Danny Akins preached at the SC pastor's conference?

Debbie said...

I just finished listening to the file and have to say it was one of the best explanations I have heard to explain the reformed doctrine. I really liked how the clips of the Caner brothers were used and explained.

I was not raised Calvinist, in fact I did not know Calvinism until I was in my 40's except as the Caner brothers presented it. When I learned and accepted the truth of Calvinism I felt as if I had been born again. I have not been the same since. RC Sproul said once and I paraphrase I am sure, that there is nothing more annoying than an Arminian turned Calvinist. That is me to this day and it's been ten years. :)

GeneMBridges said...

One Final question Dr Caner. You have stated that “you were elected because you had selected”. In light of that statement Dr Caner were you any smarter any better any less sinful any more spiritually inclined than the millions who were not elected because they had not selected?

I would add:

1. Dr. Caner you made the above comment claiming that this was the view of Moses Amyralt. What was Amyralt's doctrine of election? Did he believe that we are elected because we are selected?

2. Dr. Caner, you said you were defending Moses Amyralt when you made this claim. Moses Amyralt believed in a hypothetical covenant and it was this that the atonement satisified. The full value of this satisfaction is then, in Amyralt's theology, imputed to the elect person. Is this your doctrine of general atonement, or is it your contention that the atonement makes men "savable?" If this is not your doctrine of the atonement, then how can you claim to be defending Amyraldianism?

I do not agree with your Bezian presuppositions.

3. Dr. Caner, Richard Muller has written a great deal about Beza and his work on Predestination. You have claimed in the past that Beza "made predestination the head of all doctrine." Given that the Tabula Predestinationis:

a. Follows the early order of Calvin's Institutes

b. Does not contain a systematic treatment of theology

c. In Beza's own words within the Tabula deny it was intended to be prospectus for systematic theological method

d. That Beza within the Tabula states, in agreement with Calvin, that the doctrine of predestination should be taught in Pauline order in a posteriori NOT, as you have alleged, a priori fashion, according to the order of the student's knowing or believing, not the order of God's being, unless the doctrine is already well understood by the student for other reasons,

and

e. Beza, in the Tabula, says that the a posterori method used by Paul is "the proper path for ALL theology,"

How can you substantiate your remarks about Beza? Are you even familar with Muller's work? If so, what is wrong with it? Are you not, without informing your audience, relying on Bolsec's argumentation? If so, why will you not inform your audience of these facts?

We have no problem with guys who hold to four-point position, as long as it does not interfere with the biblical imperative of personal soul winning and corporate invitations.

4. Dr. Caner, how does the doctrine of limited atonement "interfere with the biblical imperative of personal soul winning?" In how many passages of Scripture are people urged to convert because Christ died for them?
Are you not using the logic of the hyper-Calvinist here? For, in hyper-Calvinism, people are told they need a warrant to believe. Unless God seconds your call from the pulpit in the mind of the prospect by some intuitive sense he is elect, he is not to believe. Haven't you simply substituted that intuition with general atonement? Why do you require general atonement to underwrite the call to be converted?

5. Apropos 4, logically speaking, how does unconditional election or special redemption hinder the Gospel? According to Calvinism, the faithful preaching of the Gospel has a guaranteed success rate. Only God knows the percentages, but, according to Calvinism, a set number will be saved by the preaching of the Gospel. But, according to your libertarian theory of the will, far fewer people might respond to the Gospel or even none at all. So whose position hinders evangelism: ours or yours?

DoGLover said...

Formidable! I gave thanks as I listened to it yesterday. Then, I sent the link to my son, a 5-point Liberty grad.

I think you're on to something as a format to confront the errors of Arminianism by the messages they put out and then responding to the doctrinal inconsistencies.

Thanks for your diligence.

Jim Porter said...

I think this is further evidence of non-communication. Dialog is needed ... not debate (per Peter Lumpkins). As an example, the item that Dr. Emir Caner raised about the gospel and "good news/bad news" was totally missed by Dr. White and Dr. Ascol. He was not addressing the judgement that any unsaved person faces based on their sin ... he was trying to address that a non-elect person can never be saved (in a 5 point mindset) ... that is how the gospel becomes "bad news". This is my humble assessment of what I heard.

It seems until the two sides come together to dialog (not debate) on the "difficult" verses for both perspectives, no progress will be forthcoming.

I've got to say that some of what I've read sounds like my younger children: "But she said ... I did not! ... you did too!"

GeneMBridges said...

I think this is further evidence of non-communication. Dialog is needed ... not debate (per Peter Lumpkins).

a. Au contrare, the Caners are merely being answered on their own level, for they invoke the Anabaptists at every turn. Read Reformation history; the Anabaptists insisted on debate frequently. The Caners are the ones claiming to stand in the Free Church tradition, let them stand in it...all of it.

b. That said, I think it is a manifest misunderstanding to call them Arminians. What they are saying when they claim to be "Baptists" is not that they are Baptists in the modern sense or Baptists of the seventeenth century sense. Rather, they are claiming to be Anabaptists, descendents of the Radical Reformation. Now, the Anabaptists' theology did, in fact, stand in close relation to Arminianism on the continent, in terms of certain content, and it is that common content that the Caners have with both Arminianism and Anabaptistery. Of course, there are some funky things about justification by faith that they would disown, I would hope, so this makes them inconsistent at best. If I was Dr. Ascol, I would challenge them on their theory of Baptist origins.

c. The Caners, particularly Ergun, have proven themselves impervious to dialogue.

d. In a proper theological debate, the debate takes the form of a dialogue. I just attended one on theism and atheism and morality on the campus of Wake Forest University. To assert that debate and dialogue are antithetical is a false antithesis.

He was not addressing the judgement that any unsaved person faces based on their sin ... he was trying to address that a non-elect person can never be saved (in a 5 point mindset) ... that is how the gospel becomes "bad news".

A. Scripture says that the gospel is the stetch of death to those persons anyway.

B. What Drs. White and Caner stated was that the very Romans Road that Dr. Caner referenced begins with "bad news." When you tell a person that they face condemnation, you are telling them "bad news."

C. What presentation of the gospel in Scripture begins with "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?" Why is the Pauline order inadequate?

D. What Dr. White and Dr. Ascol were doing was, without spelling it out, was point out that we do not discuss election and reprobation when presenting the command to believe and repent, because we do not have access to the decretive will of God. It is the hyper-Calvinist that says the sinner needs to find a warrant to believe. But then, the Dr. Caners are functional hyper-Calvinists themselves, for they believe that the sinner needs a warrant to believe that exceeds the command to believe in Christ and repent from their sins.

GeneMBridges said...

I think this is further evidence of non-communication. Dialog is needed ... not debate (per Peter Lumpkins).

a. Au contrare, the Caners are merely being answered on their own level, for they invoke the Anabaptists at every turn. Read Reformation history; the Anabaptists insisted on debate frequently. The Caners are the ones claiming to stand in the Free Church tradition, let them stand in it...all of it. 17th century Baptists participated in over 100 debates between 1644 and 1701 alone, so it is hardly illegitimate to debate within Baptist tradition.

b. That said, I think it is a manifest misunderstanding to call them Arminians. What they are saying when they claim to be "Baptists" is not that they are Baptists in the modern sense or Baptists of the seventeenth century sense. Rather, they are claiming to be Anabaptists, descendents of the Radical Reformation. Now, the Anabaptists' theology did, in fact, stand in close relation to Arminianism on the continent, in terms of certain content, and it is that common content that the Caners have with both Arminianism and Anabaptistery. Of course, there are some funky things about justification by faith that they would disown, I would hope, so this makes them inconsistent at best. If I was Dr. Ascol, I would challenge them on their theory of Baptist origins.

c. The Caners, particularly Ergun, have proven themselves impervious to dialogue.

d. In a proper theological debate, the debate takes the form of a dialogue. I just attended one on theism and atheism and morality on the campus of Wake Forest University. To assert that debate and dialogue are antithetical is a false antithesis.

He was not addressing the judgement that any unsaved person faces based on their sin ... he was trying to address that a non-elect person can never be saved (in a 5 point mindset) ... that is how the gospel becomes "bad news".

A. Scripture says that the gospel is the stetch of death to those persons anyway.

B. What Drs. White and Ascol stated was that the very Romans Road that Dr. Caner referenced begins with "bad news." When you tell a person that they face condemnation, you are telling them "bad news," so unless you are not going to tell them this, your just moving the queston back one step.

C. What presentation of the gospel in Scripture begins with "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?" Why is the Pauline order inadequate?

D. What Dr. White and Dr. Ascol were doing was, without spelling it out, was point out that we do not discuss election and reprobation when presenting the command to believe and repent, because we do not have access to the decretive will of God. It is the hyper-Calvinist that says the sinner needs to find a warrant to believe. But then, the Dr. Caners are functional hyper-Calvinists themselves, for they believe that the sinner needs a warrant to believe that exceeds the command to believe in Christ and repent from their sins.

E. "Within a five point mindset?" I'll say this again. This would only be true if persons required a warrant to believe based on general atonement or a subjective notion of their election and if general atonement is necessary to underwrite the outward call, but the elect will believe Christ died for them by virtue of believing and the reprobate will not believe anyway so where's the harm? What's more, this objection of theirs works equally as well against Amyraldianism, which with they allegedly have no problem.

chadwick said...

I just completed hearing the MP3 in its entirety. It breaks my heart to hear the "freewillish" remarks of the Caners', who claim to be Southern Baptists. It is my prayer that these men would just be consistent with their Theology . . . even Wesley was consistent with his Theology . . . I respect John Wesley because he held true to his Theology. He rejected unconditional election, therefore he rejected particular redemption, therefore he rejected irresistible grace, therefore he rejected perseverence of the saints. I must agree with Rolfe Barnard, he stated (something along these lines), "If were not going to believe our Baptists Creeds, then we might as well throw them away!" I cannot help to think of the Caners' as being the "Clark Pinnocks" of tomorrow. It seems that they do, indeed, Theologically, have more in common with Pinnock than White or Ascol. Again, I respect Clark Pinnock for being true to his Theological believes. . . and if the Caners' hold true to their Theological beliefs, they are not too far away from Pinnock. As Piper stated, "Reformed doctrine is the best safeguard for heresy." Pinnock left Reformed Theology . . . look where he's at. The Caners' left(or have they ever been there)Reformed Theology. . . Pray for the Caners' that they will not take the path as Pinnock . . . pray for Pinnock that he will get back to Sola Scriptura rather than Sola Intellectia!

Chadwick

volfan007 said...

wow! you guys have a real problem. fake debates. lol.


volfan007

VolFanIsATroll said...

Mr. Brave Anonymous Volfan, I thought you weren't coming back here because you said it was not worth your time?

So did you just stop by to mock those whom you call "brothers" in Christ? In the past you at least made a pretense of constructive criticism. Now it seems you're just plain ol' trolling!

Ask yourself before your next drive-by jeer... "Does this blog comment glorify God"?

Stephen Pruett said...

OK, This seems to be the place where I can ask a sincere question and get an informed answer. I have not done much reading on the reformed theology, and I am inclined to like the idea of free will, because it seems to me consistent to many passages that explicity or implicitly support this idea. For example, when Jesus looked down on Jerusalem and stated that he longed to take them under His wings, but they would not. It is implied that they could have chosen to follow Jesus but they did not. I also like the idea of free will, because it forms one of the major philosophical foundations used by apologists to show the futility of all philosophies other than Christianity. Following Francis Schaeffer's lead, I have argued on this basis with a Nobel laureate and others who I think were genuniely surprised to find a Christian who could make them think about their own presuppositions and face the consequences of their beliefs. The idea here is that if we are merely moleculear machines, as materialists of all stripes believe, then we really have no free will. Free will is just an illusion, because our decisions are strictly determined by the interaction of the molecules in our brains with stimuli in the environment. Without free will, there can be no meaning or ultimate purpose. How can anything be virtuous or evil if it is merely the result of biochemical reactions over which we have no control? Now, having satisfied myself that lack of free will is a hopeless position in which materialists but not Christians find themselves, I find out that informed, intelligent Christians are saying there is no free will on the most important decision of all!

Perhaps I am confusing your views on free will with those expressed by hypercalvinists (I really don't know the distinction between hyper and regular)? If so, please let me know. I read an explanation of reformed theology on the web, but I lost track of the site. However, I seem to racall that, as it was described there, I was much more in agreement with reformed theology than I thought.

One other idea for your consideration. The contention between Calvinists and various types of non-calvinists has been going on for hundreds of years. Brilliant theologians on both sides have written books on the subject. In the past (though apparently not this time) real debates have occurred. Nevertheless, we have two sides, both of whom seem to genuinely believe and reverence scripture, who have not come to any consensus. Has anyone considered the possibility that God had the Bible written to purposely make it impossible to determine which view if correct? I have read that reformed theology proponents assert that their theology does not harm evangelism. If that is the case, then perhaps deciding on these matters is not critical and the scriptures are purposely obtuse to prevent us from focusing on one of these views. I do not claim to know why God would do such a thing, but perhaps it is partly to keep us humble and keep us from relying to heavily on our own intellect, even as it is applied to the Bible. In any case the empirical evidence is about as strong as it could be that there no certain resolution is possible. If it was, wouldn't it have emerged by now?

I am aware that most readers of this blog are sure of their position, but aren't there reasonable (as well as unreasonable) persons on the other side who are just as sure and just as careful in their scholarship. The only resolution I can see is to conclude that God did not provide enough information to definitively decide this issue. I really do not have a problem with that. Either way, it would not affect that which I share with a lost person. I don't imagine I will get much encouragement on this line of thinking on this blog, but perhaps you could just consider the possibility?

volfan007 said...

troll,

i backslid and came back to this blog. does my comment glorify God...yes, i think so. encouraging people to the truth and exhorting them to stay out of extremes of theology glorify God....do they not?

i still come over here every now and then to see what yall are talking about. it keeps being the same ole same ole.

i will leave yall once again with what a very precious, dear, saint of God...a seminary professor...who was calvinistic in his theology..once said...he said, calvinism and arminianism are young men's religions.


from the hills of tn,

volfan007

ps. God bless yall. i sincerely pray that you will seek after the Lord and serve Him all your life.

GOWITHGOSPEL said...

Excellent! Or as they sometimes say: GOOD STUFF!!

Andrew said...

Equivocation 101

VolFan007 statement: “wow! you guys have a real problem. fake debates. lol.”

VolfFan007 describes this as “encouraging people to the truth and exhorting them to stay out of extremes of theology”

VolFan are you sure that you don’t work for the Democratic Party? There’s so much spin it’s making me quite dizzy!

Jim Porter said...

Brother Gene,

You mentioned the history of debates. Historically, debate may have worked … it doesn’t seem to be working now.

You said: "c. The Caners, particularly Ergun, have proven themselves impervious to dialogue."
Still, it seems that true dialogue is needed (as defined in the dictionary), not debate. A “debate” is for winners and losers … dialogue is for mutual understanding. In the sense of the dictionary, it seems, very little dialogue has been accomplished.

The Romans road is fine. I believe there is agreement (at least for me) on that. Also, I didn’t hear Dr. Emir Caner contesting that.

I didn’t say the Pauline order was inadequate nor did I mention a method involving “… wonderful plan …”. Where did you get this from?

You mentioned some "warrant". I'm not following that one ... what "warrant"?

Gene, you said: "E. … believe Christ died for them by virtue of believing …”. Seems abit cyclical, could you clarify?

sparrowhawk said...

"God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."

If I've heard that phrase from one SBC pastor, I've heard it from a hundred. It is not the way to introduce the gospel. And if it is, then Esau and Pharaoah have a legal claim against this supposed God of justice based on what we read in Romans 9.

Micah said...

Mr. Pruett,

In your post you state that you "like the idea of free will" because "it seems to me consistent to many passages that explicity or implicitly support this idea. For example, when Jesus looked down on Jerusalem and stated that he longed to take them under His wings, but they would not. It is implied that they could have chosen to follow Jesus but they did not...."

Yet, as Dr. James White has noted many times, this is NOT what the verse actually states. Read carefully the context of the passage:

Matt 23:37 - "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

Christ will in fact gather all those whom God wills to himself, as John 6 and elsewhere clearly teaches, however, Christ is specifically speaking to the leaders of the temple in Jersualem and how they were as blind guides, persecuting those who followed Christ. Yet Christ knows those who are His and seeks and saves them regardless of the running and willing of men.

You also speak of Schaeffer, who was a student of Cornelius Van Til, a foremost Calvinistic Christian Apologist who explored the presuppositional method of apologetics. Schaeffer himself had a Reformed and compatabilistic understanding of God's sovereignty in light of man's responsibility. Thus he did not argue that God's sovereignty negated the responsibility of man to either obey or worship God, rather he recognized that God is fully sovereign and yet man truly responsible for his actions.

As Martin Luther wrote: "If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright."

You write: "Free will is just an illusion, because our decisions are strictly determined by the interaction of the molecules in our brains with stimuli in the environment. Without free will, there can be no meaning or ultimate purpose."

I disagree, the Bible tells us that God has "declared the end from the beginning" and "Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it." (Isa 46:9-13) There is nothing that occurs that God has not so planned, nor does God fail to get what He wants. You may believe that "without free will there can be no meaning..." etc, but that is not what the Bible teaches whatsoever. Our actions are not determined by interaction of molecules in our brains, rather our actions are determined by our fallen nature as human beings of the race of Adam. In Adam, all die.

You write: "I find out that informed, intelligent Christians are saying there is no free will on the most important decision of all!"

Actually, it is the Bible that states this: "...because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8:7-8)

See, in Adam, all men are slaves to their sinful flesh. They obey the flesh without regard to righteousness and are "by nature children of wrath." (Eph 2:3)

Lest you believe that Romans 8:7-8 is speaking of some second-class Christian, Paul answers "...you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Thus, according to Paul, the difference between the person who's mind is set on the flesh and the one who's mind is on the Spirit is "if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."

Thus, according to Paul the person without Christ/without the Spirit:

The are hostile toward God.
They do not subject themselves to God's Law.
They cannot subject themselves to God's Law.
They cannot please God.


This is the state of mankind apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the word. Thus, as R.C. Sproul states, the will of man is "free" in the sense that it does what it is most inclined to do, and apart from the Spirit of God regenerating them, they're inclined to hate God.

You write, Perhaps I am confusing your views on free will with those expressed by hypercalvinists (I really don't know the distinction between hyper and regular)?

Thanks for admitting this. Hyper-Calvinists are "...characterized by a denial that the call to repent and believe is universal (that is, for every person) and that a person who is not influenced by the Holy Spirit has a duty to repent and believe in Christ for salvation because he does not actually have the ability to believe in Christ."

Free will, however, is not in question here. Rather, the Bible tells us that God is perfectly sovereign over his creation including extending saving grace to whom He chooses, based not on anything they do, but purely on His mercy.

You write:One other idea for your consideration. The contention between Calvinists and various types of non-calvinists has been going on for hundreds of years.

And for centuries men have argued over the deity of Christ, surely the fact that there has been "no consensus" doesn't mean there isn't one truth therein nor does it mean the debate is of no importance. Consider that with in the Calvinist/Arminian (and even more so Augustinian/Pelagian) debate is truly a debate over who has the true freedom in salvation. Is it God, who does as He pleases, as Scripture states, or is it man who controls salvation? This is not some scholarly discussion simply for the halls of institutions, rather this debate goes to the very heart of the meaning of the Gospel.

Just because ignorant and sinful men disagree with what Scripture states about God's sovereignty doesn't mean the Bible isn't clear about it.


You write: If that is the case, then perhaps deciding on these matters is not critical and the scriptures are purposely obtuse to prevent us from focusing on one of these views.

It is our position that the Bible is perfectly clear on these matters. You willingly admit to having little experience studying Reformed works, I plead with you to study what the Reformers believed, before attempting to interact with it much further. You can read much at monergism.com, you can start here: http://monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/freewill.html

Again you state: "In any case the empirical evidence is about as strong as it could be that there no certain resolution is possible. If it was, wouldn't it have emerged by now?"

Empirical evidence cannot cause men to believe what it proves. There are people today who believe the earth is flat, no manner of proof will cause them to believe otherwise. Thus, it is your responsibility to view the evidence the Reformed have provided you (which you admit to having little experience with) and decide.

There is little that is difficult or obtuse about Paul's teaching in Romans 9 or in John 6, rather, men simply refuse to accept that God controls man's destiny because "all have sinned".

I encourage you to listen to Dr. White & Tom Ascol's recording (http://mp3.aomin.org/4liberty.mp3) on this matter, compare what they say to the Word of God and believe what the Spirit of Christ has provided in Scripture.

John 6:65-66
And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.

Micah

Micah said...

Jim Porter,

Did you listen to the MP3? If not, please do and then respond.

Micah

Jim Porter said...

Brother Micah,

I did listen to the audio before I posted. I went back and listened to parts again ... in case I missed something (I've got a loud house :). A transcript would be useful but I realize that is quite abit of work.

Thanks for your explanation of hyper .vs. non-hyper in your reply to Mr. Pruett. It helped abit.

For me, it seems that Calvanism doesn't provide explanations of many bible verses. At least one of these was mentioned by Dr. Emir Caner. Also, I John 2:2 comes to mind (Peter Lumpkins recently had a helpful series on that verse).

Stephen Pruett said...

Micah, Thanks for the detailed response. I need to read more on Reformed Theology; thanks for recommending a place to start. However, I think I understand why this debate caused John Adams (2nd US President) to abaondon the church (he heard a particularly uncivil arguement between a calvinist and an arminian, according to his diary). I admit to being "ignorant and sinful", but I don't believe I have ever said that about someon else. I have observed that doing so tends to activate the other person's innate emotional responses, which renders them completely unreceptive to further arguments, no matter how well constructed.

I will not respond in detail until I do some more reading, but I do not find most of your arguments to be entirely convincing. For example, I do not know of any denomination of Chrisitans that doubts the deity of Christ. This seems very clear in scripture, and my understanding is that it was seriously doubted by some Christians for the most part before the New Testament was finalized. Also, your analysis of Matthew 23:37 is interesting, but it does not explain the fact that "Christ wanted" to take them under His wings, but they "would not". If Christ wanted it, but the people he was concerned about (whether they were temple officials or not) would not do it, I can see no other meaning than that these people resisted the desire or perfect will of God.

I suggest you re-read my comments on free will being an illusion determined by the molecules in our brains. This is the conclusion that materialists reach, and I do not agree with them.

In any case, it seems to me one could believe that God's grace is essential but man can refuse to accept it. I guess that means of the 5 points, the one I have most trouble with is the idea of irresistable grace. Perhaps I will find that there are explanations that will convince me, but I am not there yet.

I admit that this issue is addressed in Romans 9, and your views seem to be reasonably derived from Paul's arguments in this passage. I suppose the point on which I am uncertain is whether this passage really means that God decided before time began to harden the hearts of some and not allow them to be saved. That is what Romans 9 seems to say, but interpreting it that way makes it directly contradictory to II Peter 3:9 (The Lord is.....not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance). Scriptures, when properly understood, do not conflict with other scriptures. Therefore, until I can resolve this apparent conflict, I will remain undecided. Interestingly, I am a believer, and I suppose that means, according to your view, I am one of the elect and could have made no other choice. Interestingly, if that is true, it would still be true whether I believe it or not, so again I am not clear on why it is such a critical matter to resolve. We are saved by faith through God's grace; I think we agree on that. Whether we accepted this by free will or because we could not resist does not affect that outcome. Therefore, I remain unconvinced that there are harmful consequences to leaving the matter unresolved for the moment.

Micah said...

For me, it seems that Calvanism doesn't provide explanations of many bible verses. At least one of these was mentioned by Dr. Emir Caner. Also, I John 2:2 comes to mind...

I highly recommend you continue to study Reformed materials for said "explanations."

As for 1 John 2:2, is it your belief that Christ has propitiated (actually removed the sin from) each and every person who ever lived, and if so, on what basis does God condemn anyone?

Is it your belief that Christ fails to save those for whom he propitiates?

Micah said...

However, I think I understand why this debate caused John Adams (2nd US President) to abaondon the church (he heard a particularly uncivil arguement between a calvinist and an arminian, according to his diary).

In other words, he decided to sin because he saw others sin?

I admit to being "ignorant and sinful", but I don't believe I have ever said that about someon else. I have observed that doing so tends to activate the other person's innate emotional responses, which renders them completely unreceptive to further arguments, no matter how well constructed.

Of course it does, but Paul states that time and again about the Judiazers and others. There's no sense in telling people that they're "ok" when in fact they purposefully misrepresent your position time and again even after being corrected.

...but I do not find most of your arguments to be entirely convincing. For example, I do not know of any denomination of Chrisitans that doubts the deity of Christ.

For many, many years, the Christian church in the world was lead by Arians (those who deny the deity of Christ). There are many people who believe likewise that Christ is not God, therefore, using your argumentation, no one can really know the answer so we should all just get along. Right? If you say no to this, you must likewise recognize that the debate over monergism and synergism is also important.

This seems very clear in scripture...

As does the complete sovereignty of God over salvation, yet intelligent people deny the deity of Christ, just as you likewise deny the sovereignty of God in salvation... what may seem clear to you is not clear to others, that is why this discussion is important.

Also, your analysis of Matthew 23:37 is interesting, but it does not explain the fact that "Christ wanted" to take them under His wings, but they "would not".

Who would not? The leaders or the children? The leaders would not have Christ as Lord over them, but that in no way suggests that they had a libertarian free will so as to do that which the Bible specifically states that they could not do. Do you believe that Christ is, in Matt 23:37 saying the opposite of Paul in Romans 8?

If Christ wanted it, but the people he was concerned about (whether they were temple officials or not) would not do it, I can see no other meaning than that these people resisted the desire or perfect will of God.

So then Matt 23:37 contradicts Isa 46:9-10? Is that really what you're saying? What part of "I will accomplish all My good pleasure" does God not do?

I suggest you re-read my comments on free will being an illusion determined by the molecules in our brains. This is the conclusion that materialists reach, and I do not agree with them.

Nor do I, rather, I acknowlege as Scripture states, that in Adam we've all sinned and are slaves to sin unwilling to and unable to do anything that will cause God to save us apart from His gracious work.

I recommend you walk through the later half of John 6, interacting with that text specifically, as Dr. White explains in the liberty mp3.

I suppose the point on which I am uncertain is whether this passage really means that God decided before time began to harden the hearts of some and not allow them to be saved...

You're missing a key piece of information...

Men are sinners by nature, God doesn't have to force them to sin, rather, their sins express their sinful nature. People are not owed salvation by God, rather He GRACIOUSLY redeems slaves of sin.

God didn't have to actively harden hearts, the Bible states that our hearts are dead to begin with, requiring regeneration. God's hardening of Pharoah is only to his further judgement. It is not as if those "pots" not chosen for salvation deserve better, we're all sinners and none of us DESERVES grace. It is not as if these people want to go to heaven and God is forcing them out. There is none who seeks after God, no not one.

...that is what Romans 9 seems to say, but interpreting it that way makes it directly contradictory to II Peter 3:9 (The Lord is.....not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance).

2 Pet 3:9 specifically states that "The Lord is not slow about His promise..." "but is patient toward you". Peter is speaking specifically about the readers of the passage, the church. This is not a universal statement that God wants to save people but cannot, rather this verse is talking about God's promise to save and HIS work to save those whom He has chosen.

It is therefore YOUR interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 (apart from the context of that verse) which contradicts not only Romans 9 but Isa 46 and many other passages wherein the Bible expresses that God truly is God and gets whatever He plans and desires.

Isa 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,

Prov 19:21 Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.

Isa 46:10(b) '...My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';

Does God really get what He desires and plans, or is God unable to save those whom He desires?

Therefore, until I can resolve this apparent conflict, I will remain undecided. Interestingly, I am a believer, and I suppose that means, according to your view, I am one of the elect and could have made no other choice. Interestingly, if that is true, it would still be true whether I believe it or not, so again I am not clear on why it is such a critical matter to resolve.

God works through means. He doesn't save people apart from the preaching of the Gospel unto faith imparted by the Holy Spirit. You may be one of the elect, if indeed you endure till the end. ;)

It is a critical matter for the doctrine of election is expressed through scripture and we as believers should seek to understand it. Those who object to Reformed theology rarely interact with the actual arguments and beliefs of the Reformed.

Listen to the latest Dividing Line at aomin.org for more on this whole topic.

Micah

Jim Porter said...

Brother Micah,

I will continue to study this subject. God has been leading me through this topic for awhile now. I am still learning.

An interesting verse, I John 2:2. The discussion threads on Peter Lumpkin's blog and Keith Schooley's seemed to move towards (based on the verse), that the atonement is general but only realized with belief. This is certainly consistent with other verses. There is an interesting parallel with Israel's sacrifices. True atonement of sin (O.T. style) required a person's proper attitude/actions (Isa 1:11, Isa 1:16-17). The O.T. sacrifice was not sufficient by itself.

Micah, you asked: "Is it your belief that Christ fails to save those for whom he propitiates?". I do believe in the "P" of TULIP. Dr. White's presentation of John 6 supports this and also, John 10:28. But ... there are some tough verses in this subject area. Some such "scary" verses are in Heb 6:4-6. How do these "fall away"? Were they never saved (5-point term: non-elect)? I have still much to learn.

Stephen Pruett said...

Micah, I am sorry your position has been misrepresented so often; I know that can be very frustrating. Hopefully, blogging will help in the long term. I have found that people hang out at most blogs usually chime in when someone is obviously misrepresenting another person's position.

However, I remain much less impressed than you with the arguments you present on some of these issues. You could list many scriptures that conflict with my interpretation of IIPeter 3:9, and I can list over 20 New Testament passages that seem to use whosover in the way that word is commonly understood (i.e., anybody) to describe who may be saved or not, depending on their faith. I am not sure that you have not misrepresented my position. It seems to me that one of your comments implied that I do not believe that God is sovereign. I believe completely in the sovereignty of God. However, it seems possible he could exert that sovereignty by allowing us to decide to accept His gift or not. It seems to me that accepting a gift is not nearly the same thing as earning something. Thus, we cannot earn salvation in any way. However, at the moment, pending further study, I think the Bible does not preclude the idea that we can freely choose to accept or reject God's gift. I do agree with Jim Porter that I have much to learn, but right now I need sleep.

Stephen Pruett said...

One more thing. I am not convinced by your interpretation of IIPeter 3:9. By your reasoning, nothing in the epistles applied to non-believers, because, in the broadest context, all are addressed to believers. I am not buying that. If that is how you choose to reconcile IIPeter 3:9 and Romans 9, fine. I have no problem with it. However, this view is not based on an incontrovertible, definitive interpretation, it is based on your (and many others who agree with you) opinion and preference. As we have had this discussion, I have become more convinced that this is an issue that should not divide or generate animosity among believers in any way. We should discuss it, because it is of some importance. However, none of your arguments seem definitive to me. It comes down to how we resolve passages that seem contradictory, and the the answer seems to be, it is based on opinion and preference, not definitive scriptural positions on such a resolution. Sorry, I know you don't like this. Maybe I'll be convinced after more reading, but I'm not now. If it makes you feel any better, I am also not convinced that we should just basically ignore Romans 9 and similar passages, which is what most Baptist pastors seem to do.

Andrew said...

Bro. Pruett,

I, like Micah, believe that the context of 2 Peter 3:9 is knowable with a very high degree of certainty. It is obviously eschatological, not primarily soteriological. Peter is addressing the "how" and "when" of Christ's return, and because of tradition people read into the passing comment of ch 3 vs. 9 this deep insight into God's salvific will to save every individual who has ever lived. It doesn't seem to bother them that the rest of the epistle is on a completely different subject. If this verse teaches what some claim it does, then we must conclude that Peter was scatterbrained without any consistent flow of thought.

Before you conclude that the context of 2 Peter 3:9 can't be known definitively, you may wish to read an in-depth response to the objection that you have raised:

"By your reasoning, nothing in the epistles applied to non-believers, because, in the broadest context, all are addressed to believers. I am not buying that."

This has been addressed in the following helpful article, "2 Peter 3:9 and the 'Letterhead Argument'"

http://aomin.org/index.php?itemid=1394

May God bless your study of his word!

Stephen Pruett said...

Andrew, Thanks. I will check out those references. What about the Whosoevers?

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

Should we say that "whosoever" must mean that all men are neutral towards God and therefore some have a spark of righteousness inside (which others do not have) that leads them to seek God? That's reading an assumption of libertarian free will into a word that does not bear that meaning. It is a pronoun. It’s simply a placeholder that represents an ambiguous group of people. To determine the identity of the “whosoever” group, we must read the context in each case, because the word “whosoever” itself has no content. For example, in John 3:16 the “whosoever” is defined as “all the believing ones”.

The Gospel message is preached to all men. Hence, “Whosoever will may come.” However, just who is it that "wills" to come? The natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and no man seeks after God (Romans 3:11). And the Lord Jesus said that no man is able to come to Him unless the Father draws him. So, outside of God's initiative in regeneration, no man will "will" to come to Christ.

bristopoly said...

Hi Stephen,

Just to throw in my hat here... I just got done going through Matthew section by section and the verse you quoted is definitively talking about the religious leaders when it uses Jerusalem as those who are unwilling for the children to be gathered up. Calvinism teaches that what God wants for His elect can be, and is, resisted by the non-elect persons within the visible church. This has nothing to do with God not accomplishing His goal with His elect. He does not say that His , i.e., the children, have resisted. That's not just an spin. That is THE context. The whole Chapter is condemning the religious leaders for leading God's people in a way contrary to where God leads them. Hence, the chapter is all about a condemnation of their beliefs, teachings and even missions practices. To say that this verse is suddenly talking about the elect's ability to resist God's will is to remove it from the context and to seek to have it say more than it intended to say.

Secondly, having also preached through 2 Pet, the context, not simply a Calvinist interpretation, tells us who the "any" are: "God is patient toward you all." That's why God is "delaying" Christ's return. All of the elect, i.e., members of His Church, have not yet been born or come to know Him.
Here's something to think about for you: If this is giving the reason why God has not sent Christ back yet; and the reason given is as you say---because He wants as many people as possible to be born and believe; then if this were true, He would never end the world. No end would ever come as long as men could be born because they might believe and He doesn't want anyone to perish. If TIME is the factor, He should also extend the lifespan of everyone by infinity because maybe they will believe a million years from now if they won't today. If God really doesn't want them to perish, then why take children or those in their twenties in death? We could go on and on and create numerous conjectures and contradictions to this text, but there is no need when taken in context. "All" is the word pas which has a variety of references depending on the context: "all" "all sorts of" "all of a group" "any" "every" "all of you to whom I'm speaking" etc.

I think the problem for us is that we are used to reading verses out of context because of an abusive systematic approach to the text within the fundamentalist/ evangelical tradition. Try to remove any question of the Calvinist/Arminian controversy and how it applies to these texts and istead just try to connect the verses you quoted to the contexts in which they reside (without any other purpose) and you may see what I mean. Just a suggestion to try and help you along in understanding the verses.

If you want to see the importance of the Calvinist/Arminian debate, you can start with Bondage of the Will by Luther, who states that it is his foundational reason for parting with the Romanist view of salvation.

After that, you can look at the difference between the two views in regard to how one views the purpose of a church service, how one does evangelism, what one uses to evangelize, whether one believes the Bible is sufficient because of the power of the Holy Spirit to effectially draw men regardless of their cultural situation, whether God is to be honored as one who elects perfectly or to be viewed as a monster (many Arminians view the Calvinist view of God as a monster, which is nothing short of blasphemy if Calvinists are right), etc. Regardless of what side you end up on, the one that is not possible is to believe that it does not matter.

To be clear: I know there are many people on both sides who hold views that do not logically follow their presupps, but I am talking about where the logic of the presupps go, rather than where individuals may or may not choose to hold them at bay.

Hope that helps at least a little. I was kind of brief in my explanations of the passages,but I don't have time at the moment to go through all of the arguments, so I hope that will aid you in some small way. God bless you as you seek to study all of this stuff.

bristopoly said...

One more thing to help, Stephen. The view you described of materialists is parallel to that of the Manichees. Your number one resource for seeing the difference between Biblical predestination (what we now call "Calvinism") and fatalistic/materialist determinism would be Augustine, who dealt intimately with both. Here is a man who believed the Manichean doctrine and then heavily critiqued it and yet saw no equivalence to the Biblical view of man. That should give you some great reading. You can get his relevant works on line. God bless.

Blessed Mom & Wife said...

Dr. Ascol,
I would like to thank you for the 4Liberty file. I appreciate the way that you lovingly and politely gave your presentation. I am a Baptist of 30 + years who had received nothing but "Ask Jesus into your heart" theology up until 2 years ago. This information supported what my dear husband has been sharing with me. I frequent the Founders blog and AO Ministries and some others as I learn more of the Doctrine's of Grace. Again, Thanks for the presentation.

Micah said...

There is an interesting parallel with Israel's sacrifices. True atonement of sin (O.T. style) required a person's proper attitude/actions (Isa 1:11, Isa 1:16-17). The O.T. sacrifice was not sufficient by itself.

Israel's sacrifices were for Israel they did apply to the Egyptians, the Amaelkites or the Babylonians, right? So the parallel is one of an atonement limited to the people of God.

Secondly, the promise in the OT of God to bring a redeemer is so that the redeemer will save His people etc. God's promise is to remove the iniquity of His people, do you believe that God actually removes iniquity based on Christ's death?

The question is not really whether atonenment is universal or not, but rather what was God's intention in the death of His Son, was it to save or to make saveable?

You write: Dr. White's presentation of John 6 supports this and also, John 10:28. But ... there are some tough verses in this subject area. Some such "scary" verses are in Heb 6:4-6. How do these "fall away"? Were they never saved (5-point term: non-elect)? I have still much to learn.

Firstly, Christ Himself notes that there are in fact "tares" among the wheat. There are many people within the church who, by their affiliation with the church, are part of God's people (here's another picture of Israel), who may proclaim faith at one time, may seem to be 'saved', but salvation has a future aspect to it, wherein those who perservere by faith are "being saved". It is the elect who will perservere.

The "scary" passages are therefore intened to cause the elect to perservere and warn those who will fall away of their impending doom. God thus uses His word to save, just as He does to initially bring people to faith.

In your next post you write: "that seem to use whosover in the way that word is commonly understood (i.e., anybody) to describe who may be saved or not..."

Rather than simply point out conflicting verses, how about attempting to harmonize all these passages? When we encounter passages that say "whosoever", perhaps the CONTEXT should decide what the words mean, rather than our opinion. You might not be "impressed" with what I've said 2 Peter 3:9 states, but the fact of the matter is that it is exactly what the verse says. You cannot miss the context that Peter addresses the verse, indeed the book, to "you".

Elsewhere verses commonly ascribed to the non-reformed view are often taken out of their context. Again I point to Dr White's work for a much more thorough discussion of said passages.

It seems to me that one of your comments implied that I do not believe that God is sovereign. I believe completely in the sovereignty of God. However, it seems possible he could exert that sovereignty by allowing us to decide to accept His gift or not.

"Exert that sovereignty by allowing us to decide..."? Again, the Bible is perfectly clear, especially Isa 46. God gets what He wants, according to His plan and His purpose. The desires and plans of men are many, but the council of the Lord will stand.

Secondly, men are born in sin. They, according to Scripture, hate God, cannot obey His law, and do not desire nor can they please God. Thus, if it were left up to us, no one would be saved!

Far be it from me to suggest that anything I did caused God to save me, even a "decision". Rather, let it be all of God's grace.

I think the Bible does not preclude the idea that we can freely choose to accept or reject God's gift.

Read Romans 8:7-9 again, and tell me 1. What it is the mind set on the flesh CANNOT do?
2. What is the difference between the person with mind set on flesh vs Spirit?

Given these two truths, how many freely choose God? As Scripture states, there is no one who seeks God... no not one.

Micah

Stephen Pruett said...

Bristopoly, Thanks, your explanations are helpful. However, a couple of comments raise further questions to me. For example, if the non-elect can resist as you mentioned, could they not accept instead? I suppose not, or they would be elect. Which raises the central problem that most non-Calvinists I know have with Reformed theology: The idea that God created people who He knew could not accept His gift of salvation is the crux of it. This would make the many, many passages about God's love for us seem ridiculous. God does not owe us anything, but His Word indicates that His love caused Him to sacrifice Christ to atone for the sins of which everyone is guilty. How do we reconcile this ultimately deep and sacrifical love with the idea that God chose to give the gift to only a few (Matthew 7:14)?

I did not express my point well with regard to materialism. I just find it interesting that the position of materialists who deny that real free will exists is apparently different from the Calvinist position only with regard to the mechanism. The end result that they believe is the same (our beliefs are beyond our control and they are caused by forces over which we have no power; for the materialist it is physical laws, for the Calvinist, it is irresistable grace). I draw no particular significance from this and do not equate Calvinists and materialists, I just find it interesting that on this point they seem to settle on similar positions.

Stephen Pruett said...

Andrew, I followed the link you indicated, and I understand the author's point, but it still does not seem definitive to me. He states, " And if this is the case, then how can God's patience toward "you" (in the context, the elect) be exemplified by simply stating some kind of universal salvific will? How is God's patience to the elect demonstrated by stating God wishes every person, elect or non-elect, to come to repentance?" My response to this question would be that the "you" being addressed here would be included within the any and all that follow.

Andrew said...

Bro Pruett... you're on to something when you stated this,

"Which raises the central problem that most non-Calvinists I know have with Reformed theology: The idea that God created people who He knew could not accept His gift of salvation is the crux of it.

It is true - fallen man cannot lay a hold of salvation apart from God's gracious work of regeneration. Thus man cannot boast.(Eph 2:8-9.)

And all non-Reformed views (except open theism) have the same problem! Think about it. The non-Reformed position still has God creating people that he knows will perish in hell. He knows that before He creates them. The non-reformed position wants to avoid the "problem of evil", but really just pushes the problem one step back. In the non-reformed view, why does God create people knowing that they will perish in hell?

The difference for the Calvinist is that 1) God decrees all events in history, so that in the end He gets the glory. Man's evil heart of unbelief does not frustrate the will of God. 2) Unlike the non-reformed, we believe God actually had a PURPOSE in creating and patiently tolerating vessels of wrath (Rom 9 teaches this) so that His holy justice is being put on display alongside his grace.

What purpose do unbelievers serve in the non-reformed view? Does God continue to set his love upon them for eternity while they curse Him in the flames of Hell? Is God forever sad because His salvific will was frustrated by His creatures (whose sin Jesus suffered for on the cross)? Thankfully the Calvinist does not need to answer any of those questions!

You said,
"This would make the many, many passages about God's love for us seem ridiculous."

Well I'm not sure what passages you are referring to. God's love in the Bible is not one big feeling that showers upon every individual person in the same way equally. He loves all, but He does not love all with the intention to save all. We creatures differentiate our love. My love for my pastor is not the same as the love I have for my wife (if I was married) or the love I have for the Mormon missionary on my doorstep. We image-bearers of God can differentiate our love. Will we allow God the freedom to differentiate his love?

The non-reformed position is that God's love is such that He seeks to save every single person who has ever lived... equally. Do you believe that this is what the Bible teaches? I do not think that this even comports to reality. Did God's love cause Him seek to save Moses the same way as... an Egyptian foot soldier in Pharaoh's army? Did he seek to save Joe Canaanite in the land of conquest with the same effort He sought to save you or me? And what about those who never heard the gospel? What was God's purpose in creating all of these people in the non-reformed view? Additionally, their sins are said by the non-reformed to have been fully atoned for on the cross in the body of Jesus. On what basis can God justly punished for their sin if Jesus "paid it all" for them? Recall Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost". So does this passage teach that he really tries hard to save them... but sometimes fails as a savior? I believe the verse teaches that those whom he seeks, he saves. They are the same. I find no Biblical reason to make God an "equal opportunity Savior" who has no freedom in His love. He is not obligated to save a single one of His rebellious creatures.

With regard to 2 Peter 3:9, I am not clear on what you think it means. It sounds like you're saying "well it *might* not mean what Calvinists say it means". This is a far cry from saying that Calvinists rationalize away Scripture that contradicts reformed theology (the claim of many). I have a question: are you still saying that it is not definitive that the context surrounding 2 Peter 3:9 is all about eschatology? If it was granted to you that the passage might possibly be interpreted to teach universal salvation (even though grammatically it cannot, as you will see below), would you be content to allow it to overthrow the in-depth soteriological teaching of Ephesians 1, Romans 8-9, or John 6?

You responded to one of the arguments against the "universal salvific will" interpretation.

"My response to this question would be that the "you" being addressed here would be included within the any and all that follow."

It sounds like you are assuming that the "any" and "all" refer to anyone in the entire human race. Or perhaps you are saying that they have no referent at all (but why would we do this?). The context tells us who the audience is. In any other passage of Scripture we interpret, we would decide who the "you" refers to and use this to limit the "any" and "all" of verse 9. Why would we do that here?

When Peter speaks of how his audience should behave "in holy conduct and godliness," and says that they look for the day of the Lord, and then in verse 13 he says "we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth."… Is he addressing unbelievers? Yet in 3:9 we want to take the “you” and rip it out of the paragraph so we can interpret it to include every person who will ever live. Man, that just doesn’t make any sense.

The reformed interpretation (in a nutshell): Peter says that it is God's plan and His will that all the elect come to repentance, and they most assuredly will do so.

This is intelligible and exegetically sound. It fits into the context of Peter's thought nicely. What of the non-reformed interpretation? I must ask... can Jesus ever return? As long as people are being born into the world, God’s universal salvific love towards every individual requires him to be "patient toward" them and seeking to bring all to repentance. Apparently he cannot ever return. This turns the passage into nonsense.

I want to tell you that I ( and seemingly all reformed believers) had to really struggle with what the Bible teaches about God’s love before embracing it. One book that was tremendously helpful to me was “The Love of God” by John MacArthur. If your reading list is too long already (mine is), then order his sermon series by the same title on tape/CD from GTY.org. MacArthur’s expositions are rich in the clarity they bring to the text. He carefully and compassionately considers the objections raised against God’s character from all sides, and holds them up in the light of Scripture. I can’t recommend that series highly enough.

tom said...

Great discussion on this blog, y'all.
Now, get ready for this SBC Civil War history.
Act I: Fundi/Armins declare war on Calv's by launching silly bus-driver analogy attacks.
Act II: Calv.s respond with request for discussion.
Act III: Debates insue in which Fundi/Armins are bested by Calv.s with Scripture and History.
Act IV: Fundi/Armins ignore both Scripture and History, kick out Calv.s anyway.
Act V: Calv.s form seperate denomination.
Act VI: God remains sovereign, Gospel prevails just as Bible forthtells.

Oh, forgive me for writing "Civil War" when I should have written "War of Arminian Aggression". Stonewall would have been on the right side of this one too.