Is Salvation a Decision?

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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John Piper recently told a group of college students that “salvation is not a decision.”

Reactions here at SI were, shall we say, mixed. Some understood Piper to be saying something horrible for the worst of reasons; others took him to be saying something great for the best of reasons, and a few in between suggested that while the statement itself was likely to cause confusion, it is not hard to imagine good reasons for saying it.

In all of the flying feathers, the most important question seemed to get lost: is “salvation” properly characterized as “a decision”? Let’s table the “What did Piper mean?” question and consider the bigger one.

How we answer that question depends on two vital factors: (1) how we define the terms (“salvation” and “decision”) and (2) what we believe about salvation. Sadly, a third factor seems to drive most of the discussion: (3) how much pent up hostility we have toward Reformed or non-Reformed views of the human and divine in the saving of children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Intense passion against “Calvinism” or “Arminianism,” or “monergism” or “synergism” (quotes intentional, since understandings of these terms vary widely) results in haste to blame one “ism” or the other for every point of disagreement in the doctrine of salvation.

In reality, most who care at all about a question like “Is salvation a decision?” believe nearly all of the same things about “salvation,” but have strong opinions about which features ought to be emphasized and how they ought to be expressed. But because we’re so passionate about them, these relatively small differences lead us to misconstrue what others are saying—and, too often, lead to conflict over what words mean rather than about the substance of our differences.

Depending on how we define the terms, “salvation” both is and is not “a decision.” Since both “salvation” and “decision” are ambiguous terms (they may be defined in more than one way), many combinations of meaning are possible in the statement “salvation is not a decision.”1

Some ways salvation is not a decision

What is salvation? It’s hard to improve on J. I. Packer’s introductory definition in Concise Theology:

The master theme of the Christian gospel is salvation. Salvation is a picture-word of wide application that expresses the idea of rescue from jeopardy and misery into a state of safety. The gospel proclaims that the God who saved Israel from Egypt, Jonah from the fish’s belly, the psalmist from death, and the soldiers from drowning (Exod. 15:2; Jon. 2:9; Ps. 116:6; Acts 27:31), saves all who trust Christ from sin and sin’s consequences.

Though Packer’s theology is Reformed, nothing in this description of salvation is contrary to non-Reformed views. Regardless of how a sinner comes to be a saved person, all Christians believe God does the actual saving.

So if we define “salvation” as a delivering act of God, how do we define “decision”? We can easily group the possible understandings of “decision” under two headings: decisions of God and decisions of man.

If we start with the latter, we arrive at this:

In the sense that God is the one who saves and man does not decide for Him, salvation is not a decision.

Some non-Calvinists may object at first to the phrase “man does not decide for Him,” but there is really no objection to this in Arminian theology or even Pelagian. Though views of salvation vary regarding the sequence of events and what conditions trigger God’s decision to save, no serious student of Scripture teaches that God’s will is replaced by man’s in the saving moment and God saves like some sort of puppet.

God decides to save and then saves. Salvation is certainly not a decision if we mean that God’s deliverance is a decision of man.

Here, even the definition of “is” becomes important.2 If we’re being sloppy, we might say “is a decision” when we mean “results from a decision.” A whole lot of doctrinal confusion would be cleared up if we’d say what we mean (and then if people would read and listen precisely!).

But even if we change “is” to “results from,” there is a sense in which salvation is not (does not result from) a decision (of man).

Suppose one of my kids leaves a toy (or, more likely, a book) in a poorly lit place where I tend to walk early in the morning, and I stub my toe. What caused me to stub my toe? Under those conditions, I’m likely to identify the child who left the book “where it doesn’t belong” as the cause of my pain. But is that entirely true? Someone might say the cause was the impact of my toe on the object, or the laws of physics, or the firing of neurons in my body—or even my own decision to put my foot in that particular spot.

You could accurately deny that any one of these things was “the cause” of my pain. It depends on what you want to emphasize.3

What’s certain is that there is no reasonable way to construe God’s deliverance of a sinner as being fully caused by the sinner, and to the extent that this is what’s being denied, even a Pelagian could say “salvation is not a decision.”

If we define “decision” a bit more narrowly, the truth that “salvation is not a decision” in this sense becomes even more clear.

Suppose that by “decision,” we mean what sinners do on their own as they wisely see the truth of the gospel and the reality of their need. Most (though too few!) would say such decisions do not exist. Most would deny that salvation is that kind of decision. And suppose we use “decision” to mean something impulsive and superficial a person does only in response to a series of sad or scary stories or dramatic appeals (or long, pleading invitations) and later gives little thought to. Who would say “salvation is a decision” in that sense?

One way salvation is a decision

It’s important to see how “salvation” and “decision” (and “is”) can be defined in ways that accurately deny that salvation is a decision. It’s also important to see some ways in which it’s true that salvation is a decision.

What if, by “salvation,” we mean “conversion”? Depending on how far back you go into the history of theology, “conversion” refers either to the same thing as regeneration, or specifically to the human element in regeneration. I imagine some shouting at their screens right now: “Human element? There is no human element!” But consider the observations of a couple of respected authorities.

The first is from the glossary of William G. T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology. Though added by editors, the entry accurately summarizes some important distinctions from a Reformed point of view.

conversion Latin converse, viewed by the older theologians as either passive or active. Passive conversion (conversio passiva) refers to the habit or disposition, implanted by God, to repent and believe in Christ as Savior. Active conversion (conversio activa) is the actual turning of the sinner in repentance and faith in Christ. Passive conversion is also termed “regeneration” because it involves the renewal of the sinner’s will. Active conversion, or the actual turning of the sinner to Christ, is often termed simply “conversion” without any additional qualifications. Shedd himself adopts the distinct terms regeneration and conversion in his own discussion of the matter, believing that the separate designations are less prone to confusion.4

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones seems to agree.

What do we mean by conversion? It is the first exercise of the new nature in ceasing from old forms of life and starting a new life. It is the first action of the regenerate soul in moving from something to something. The very term suggests that: conversion means a turning from one thing to another. The term is not used very frequently in the Scriptures but the truth which the word connotes and represents appears constantly.5

Earlier, Lloyd-Jones observes,

So as we consider what we mean by regeneration, the one important thing, it seems to me, is that we must differentiate it from conversion. And yet how frequently they are confused. But regeneration is not conversion and for this reason: conversion is something that we do whereas regeneration, as I shall show you, is something that is done to us by God.6

Charles Hodge’s discussion is lengthy and fascinating. A small sample will have to do here. After quoting a portion from Turretin, Hodge observes,

Here as was common with the writers of that age, Turrettin includes under “conversion,” what is now more frequently distinguished under the two heads of regeneration and conversion. The former including what the Spirit does in the soul, and the latter what the sinner, under his influence, is induced to do. With his usual clearness he refers what is now meant by regeneration to the physical operation of the Spirit; and all that belongs to conversion or the voluntary turning of the soul to God, to the mediate influence of the Holy Ghost through the truth.7

How exactly conversion relates to repentance is another discussion. My point is that even in genuinely Reformed soteriology, there is a moment when a sinner does something, and it would be absurd to argue that he does it without making a choice to do so. Regardless of how “free” or “not free” we see that choice, it remains a choice. In the Reformed understanding, God ensures the decision, but the sinner is still the subject who performs the action of some verbs. The sinner repents. The sinner believes.

In the sense that “salvation” is a sinner’s turning to God in repentant faith, salvation is a decision.

Arguably, this is the only sense in which Scripture allows us to affirm that “salvation is a decision.” But let’s not neglect the point or qualify it to death.

Though the Augustinian/Calvinistic view of what happens in the moment one passes from death to life (John 5:24) is often caricatured as a sequence of events in which an automaton is remote-controlled from the broad road of destruction onto the narrow way (and those who hold that view often beg for the caricature by overstating their own position), we can’t reasonably understand the NT to teach that the sinner coming to Christ never actually does anything.

Clearly, he does not “work” (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 4:5), but he does repent. He does believe. He does “decide” in that sense.

My plea to all of us who have an interest in salvation doctrine (and there ought to be many more than there are) is that we reflect thoughtfully on these questions and seek accurate understanding, not only of Scripture, but also of what the people we disagree with really believe.

Notes

1 Even if we suppose each of these terms can only be understood in only two ways, that produces four possible meanings of when the two are combined (S1 and D1, S1 and D2, S2 and D1, S2 and D2).

2 Seems Clintonian, I know, but he was not entirely wrong to suggest that people mean different things by “is.”

3 Aristotle would divide the possibilities into formal cause, material cause, efficient cause and final cause. These are well worth reading up on for thinking clearly about causes and results.

4 Shedd, W. G. T., & Gomes, A. W. (2003). Dogmatic Theology (3rd ed.) (953). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub.

5 Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1997). God the Holy Spirit (117–118). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossways Books.

6 Lloyd-Jones, 77.

7 Hodge, C. (1997). Vol. 2: Systematic Theology (686). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. Hodge continues with a discussion of Owen on this point also.

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Ok

Thanks Aaron, and again, as usual, you have carefully, succinctly and LOGICALLY caused me to think with a desire to become more precise in my expression toward others and in my listening to others.

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Very Helpful Treatment

Thanks. This is helpful. "Salvation" is a big word, and needs to be defined more carefully. It is often used as a synonym for regeneration (or the new birth), but the Bible uses it more broadly. Are we talking about: 1) Salvation past? (regeneration) 2) Salvation present? (progressive sanctification) or, 3) Salvation future? (final redemption, glorification)

Is salvation a decision? No. Does salvation include a decision? Yes. Does salvation include many decisions? Yes, if, you are using salvation in the broader sense.

Does a decision cause regeneration? No. Does regeneration cause a decision? Yes.

Great subject. Thanks, Aaron, for keeping us thinking Biblically.

G. N. Barkman

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Punctiliar

Aaron, this is well written and makes some valid points. But the problem with Piper's presentation and, to a lesser degree yours, is a failure to distinguish between truth and whole truth.

To say that salvation is not a decision will be understood by most as saying that we make no decision. If we said, "salvation is not only or mostly a decision," that would be correct.

I believe it is correct to say that regeneration is not a decision, as you quote Jones above.

When a partial (and even mostly true) idea is presented as the whole truth, that is sloppy at best.

What really disturbs me, however, is the growing idea that we are saved by FAITHFULNESS (how we subjectively obtain the benefits of the atonement). We are saved by true faith, and that true faith issues forth faithfulness, but it is not the faithfulness that saves us. It only indicates or makes clear that we have experienced a punctiliar genuine faith. Faithfulness helps distinguish between true and false faith.
While Piper clearly embraces salvation by faith, his recent comments almost suggest otherwise, or could be interpreted as moving in that direction. By saying that salvation is not a decision, he is weakening the punctiliar concept.

"The Midrash Detective"

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G. N. Barkman wrote: Does a

G. N. Barkman wrote:
Does a decision cause regeneration? No. Does regeneration cause a decision? Yes.

So then, can ANYONE receive regeneration? (Or does that question go beyond the scope of this thread?)

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ChrisS wrote: So then, can

ChrisS wrote:
So then, can ANYONE receive regeneration?

Chris,

In the year 532 AD there was born a native american in the region of North America we now call Wyoming. He lived and died without ever once hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Could he have received regeneration? What decision should he have made?

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DavidO wrote: ChrisS

DavidO wrote:
ChrisS wrote:
So then, can ANYONE receive regeneration?

Chris,

In the year 532 AD there was born a native american in the region of North America we now call Wyoming. He lived and died without ever once hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Could he have received regeneration? What decision should he have made?

Exactly, great questions. Off the top of my head, I would say 8 people exited the ark, with the responsibility to follow God, and having clearly seen Him work. AD 532 is a long time from them, yet the responsibility of that native American traces back to that native American's father, and his father, and so on back. If an unbeliever would honestly ask me that question, my reply would be "What about you?", seeing that the opportunity to share Christ had come about. If that person's salvation depends on a complete and full understanding and acceptance of what happened to that native American, then I will need to do a better personal job of making sure Christ is the clear scandalon.

If I never ever tell my son about Christ, and he lives in a box (with air holes, of course) ;0 , and is forever prevented from hearing the Gospel, is he responsible to God and the appointed Hebrews 9:27 judgment? Does God really desire him to be saved? Will He do something about it if I won't?

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My Limitted Freewill Likes Aaron's Article

I loved this quote from Aaron:

"In reality, most who care at all about a question like “Is salvation a decision?” believe nearly all of the same things about “salvation,” but have strong opinions about which features ought to be emphasized and how they ought to be expressed. But because we’re so passionate about them, these relatively small differences lead us to misconstrue what others are saying—and, too often, lead to conflict over what words mean rather than about the substance of our differences."

These are important issues to discuss, but I get frustrated at how people often talk right past each other because they have such a strong bias that overemphasizes one side over the other. Though the terms Arminian and Calvinist can be useful they also can become a distraction because of how they have been defined by strawmen on the extremes. In Bible College, I remember sitting at the lunch table with with a die hard Arminian who was arguing with a die hard Calvinist. I encouraged them to quit trying to defend their positions and actually listen to what each other was saying. Then I asked them both a series of questions (I wish I could remember them) and their answers showed that they really were not that far apart, but they were not willing to admit it because the Calvinist could not bring himself to admit he might hold common ground with the Arminian, and the Arminian felt the same way about Calvinism.
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I know I am dealing with a divider on this issue when they get upset with me because I am not willing to take the label of either Calvinist or Arminian. In full disclosure, I am willing to admit that I am calvinistic (small c) in the sense that I appreciate some of the points (though I am not a 5 pointer and it depends how you define the points Smile ).
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Instead of taking either of the common titles I say that I strongly believe in the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Further I believe in the limited freewill of man. Man has a freewill but that freewill is limited by God. There is room for a lot of discussion about salvation within that framework, but in all honesty, much of it must be relegated to the realm of theological theory lest we become heretics (dividers).
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William L Pettingill wrote:

"There is no doubt that God's absolute sovereignty is taught, and clearly taught, in the Word of God, and just as clearly is man's responsibility also taught in the Word. Our difficulty comes when we seek to "harmonize" these two doctrines. Such a task seems to be beyond the power of the human mind. Let us believe all that God has said on the subject and be content to wait for further light as to the harmony between these things. We may depend upon that "the Judge of the earth" will "do right."" (Bible Questions Answered pg 208)

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My fear is that the division on this subject has ended up actually limiting the discussion. Some end up getting so frustrated that they say it doesn't even matter (but the doctrine of salvation does matter). Others have taken the position of defending their preferred theology against an extreme strawman that is actually the exception rather than the rule. Thus they refuse to even listen to any points beyond their bias. I am thankful when I read an article like Aaron's that brings some balance to the discussion. His article may not have all the right answers or even all the right conclusions (I do not think I claimed it did), but it does help us to step back and look at the issue from multiple perspectives. In that sense it cannot help but challenge us to improve how we articulate one of the most important of theological positions. Thank you Aaron.

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Good article, well

Good article, well written.

In the case of Piper's statement, I don't believe most of the objections stemmed from misconstruing what Piper said, rather what the larger context implied but more importantly how is articulation with its descriptive rather than definitive language, could easily, itself, mislead vulnerable minds or be used by others to mislead weaker minds.

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Labels

Hmmm. I don't recall anyone using the terms "Calvinism" and "Arminianism" on this thread until JD told us we need to be careful about using them. I guess when certain people post, labels just pop into people's minds, whether they are used or not. Smile

G. N. Barkman

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G. N. Barkman wrote: Hmmm. I

G. N. Barkman wrote:
Hmmm. I don't recall anyone using the terms "Calvinism" and "Arminianism" on this thread until JD told us we need to be careful about using them. I guess when certain people post, labels just pop into people's minds, whether they are used or not. Smile

I thought the one thing that was settled from the previous thread of note was that the terms were now Calvinist and decisionalist.

Lee

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Shorthand

In a lot of ways, seems like words are shorthand. The problem with these hot button words/terms is that the contents represented by the shorthand are not the same for large numbers of people using the shorthand.
In computer script languages you see a lot of use of variables: "Let A=[ big long formula or function ]" Then later, you have stuff like "Let C=A+[ another formula or function or whatever ]," and so on.
If there is a problem in the process of assigning value to A, the whole program breaks... because you (the programmer) think you've got a certain value when you get to "Let C=..." but you really don't have that value.

A rambling way of saying that the variable "A" is really not what is important. The important thing is the content of the variable A, the "value" of A... what A means.

I've tossed this idea out before but maybe it has some value here: what if we all stopped saying "calvinism" or "decisionism" or whatever and used the longhand instead of the shorthand... or, to put it another way, what if we used the content/value instead of the variable?

It makes for longer sentences and slower conversations (but maybe slower is good on hot topics!)... but maybe there is more mutual understanding.

It's best to oppose something after we fully and accurately understand it so we're not wasting our energy dismantling a view nobody really holds.

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In the present-day church we

In the present-day church we are addicted to announcing the numbers of salvation decisions that are made and have very little concern about seeing if there is any fruit that those claims are true.

Not too long ago, I visited a man in jail on a regular basis. Duing the course of our visits, he told me he made a decision to turn to Christ and trust him. Later, I told the church that this man made a profession of faith. I did not declare he was saved. After this gentleman got out of jail, there was no fruit of salvation in this man's life. Today, I got a call that he was arrested again and this time, he is headed to prison for a long while. My heart breaks.

So, I am little concerned about the debate over whether or not it is a decision. It is a mighty work of God that does involved man's response is what I know. What I am concerned about is all of the claims about salvation decisions without any confirmation. While some of the claims may be true, there are too many people that go away from those decisions deceived that they are truly born again becuase they recited some prayer even though there has never been any evidence of regeneration in their lives, which the NT writers say is a great cause of concern.

What bothers me even more is the religious leaders who are proud to announce all of those "souls saved" and actually look down their noses at other religious leaders who wish to exercise greater care of souls.

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Re: Labels
G. N. Barkman wrote:

Hmmm. I don't recall anyone using the terms "Calvinism" and "Arminianism" on this thread until JD told us we need to be careful about using them. I guess when certain people post, labels just pop into people's minds, whether they are used or not. Smile

My problem is not so much with the labels as it is with that fact that depending how we use the terms, I could be neither or both. Smile It kind of makes me sound fickle, but I think you understand my poor dilemma. (BTW, I do not think we should stop using the terms, I just realize how easily they can be misunderstood).

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Decisions without Fruit

I believe the well articulated concerns of Joe Roof are excacty what John Piper was addressing in his message to young people that started this discussion. He was not being theologically precise, but was applying bible truth in language that would have been understood by his hearers to mean that just because one has made a decision does not mean that one has been saved.

G. N. Barkman

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Context

It would be pretty easy to demonstrate from the ministry of Jesus that when you're speaking in response to problems you say things differently than you do when you're just teaching them to people who want to learn--or when you're writing systematic theology.
Jesus talks about would-be disciples who are "not worthy" of following Him. He talks about hating your father and mother. He talks about not coming to bring peace but a sword.
None of these statements stand alone and all of them are powerful responses to problems among His listeners.

But if you take something He said to confront a problem and read it like systematic theology, you'll get pretty confused.

And pastors know they do this, too. When you're counseling someone about a problem or "preaching against" a problem, you don't articulate with same emphasis or even necessarily the same terms.

So is there a problem of superficial "decisions" in evangelical and fundamentalist (and every other flavor) of Christianity? Always has been. Until the eschaton, always will be. When we confront these things we have to use language the people in front of us will understand. This sometimes means the people who pick it up second or third or 27 millionth hand will think we're saying something terrible. Especially if they were out to get us in the first place.

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Pastor Joe Roof wrote:In the

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
In the present-day church we are addicted to announcing the numbers of salvation decisions that are made and have very little concern about seeing if there is any fruit that those claims are true.

Not too long ago, I visited a man in jail on a regular basis. Duing the course of our visits, he told me he made a decision to turn to Christ and trust him. Later, I told the church that this man made a profession of faith. I did not declare he was saved. After this gentleman got out of jail, there was no fruit of salvation in this man's life. Today, I got a call that he was arrested again and this time, he is headed to prison for a long while. My heart breaks.

So, I am little concerned about the debate over whether or not it is a decision. It is a mighty work of God that does involved man's response is what I know. What I am concerned about is all of the claims about salvation decisions without any confirmation. While some of the claims may be true, there are too many people that go away from those decisions deceived that they are truly born again becuase they recited some prayer even though there has never been any evidence of regeneration in their lives, which the NT writers say is a great cause of concern.

What bothers me even more is the religious leaders who are proud to announce all of those "souls saved" and actually look down their noses at other religious leaders who wish to exercise greater care of souls.

Dr. Barkman is being a little more gracious than my take on this. This comes across to me more of a rant born out of frustration than a clear assessment of issues that can and should be addressed. Statements like "the present-day church [is ] addicted to announcing the numbers of salvation decisions...;" "have very little concern about seeing if there is any fruit...;" and "...look down their noses at other religious leaders who wish to exercise greater care of souls..." give me great pause to understand this as ought but a rant.

I still fail to realize why that which Scripture has clearly communicated as the expectation of the ages should elicit such frustration so as to reconfigure our theology, in terminology if not immediately in practice, in order to accommodate our frustration. The verbiage that Piper was spouting (that I don't think any of us on this particular board have understood yet), the new nomenclature of "decisionalism" as the current terror on the block of evangelical fundamentalism, even the rise of the "New" reformed movement seem little but an expression of this frustration.

Yet Christ made it crystal clear that the wheat and tares would co-exist until He separated them (Matt. 13:25-40); that significant numbers would respond to the Gospel message but fail in true faith due to persecution, the cares of this world, the "deceitfulness of riches," etc. (Mark 4:1-20); that "many" would pass as believers being self-deceived when in actuality He "never knew" them (Matt. 7:21-23); that the church would routinely face those within its midst that would need to be cast out of the assembly and labeled as "heathen" (Matt. 18:17); that observable conviction would not always result in true repentance (Acts 7; Acts 22; Acts 26); that professors in service would not always be possessors of the Savior (II Tim. 4:10); and any number of other scenarios.

Personally, instead of standing in ready judgment on the motive of other preachers of the Gospel as indicated in the above quoted snippets, I think our time would be better spent in getting out the simple Gospel message. After all, "it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth...." I am painfully aware that every decider is not a true believer. Anyone who ministers at all to children should fully understand that. But every individual that responds to the Gospel in true faith or false decision is a testimony to the truth of Scripture concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment and reveal Jesus Christ. As far as I know that is all that Scripture ever promised anyway.

Let's concentrate on our role as Gospel witnesses and let God concentrate on who is a true convert and who is yet in need of redemption. Frankly, I have all the confidence in the world that the Holy Spirit through the Gospel can reveal the truth of their lost condition to the unbelieving heathen that has never previously heard, or to the kid that may be self-deceived clinging to some decision he wrote down in the 2nd grade. I don't have to accommodate my theological paradigm to any of these scenarios.

Lee

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False Professions

Lee,

You are exactly right. There have always been false professions of faith, and there will be many more until Jesus comes. That said, it is also true that the Bible isssues many warnings addressed to professing Christians to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. The Bible does not follow a "live and let live" attitude. The Bible does not encourage us to be content with false professions, and let God sort it out at the end. Rather, it warns church members about the dangers of empty professions without spiritual fruit.

That's what I believe Piper was doing. Warning those who are comfortable and content with an outward profession, when they should be sobered by the paucity of evidence of Holy Spirit wrought new life.

Furthermore, it is one thing to acknowledge the reality of false professions that occur during the course of Biblical evangelism. It is quite another to pursue an unbiblical style of evangelism that multiplies the number of false professions. When our message and methodology are solidly Biblical, we can rest content that false professions are not the result of our careless and shoddy evangelism. When our message is weak, and our methods are extra-Biblical, we must bear a major responsibility for deceiving people about the true condition of their souls.

G. N. Barkman

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So we now have a "criminal

So we now have a "criminal conviction" or "jailhouse" formula for determining who is and is not a genuine believer? That is a difficult one for me to swallow which is precisely why faith in Christ is always the center of our confession and confidence.

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Rants and frustrations?

Lee wrote:

Dr. Barkman is being a little more gracious than my take on this. This comes across to me more of a rant born out of frustration than a clear assessment of issues that can and should be addressed. Statements like "the present-day church [is ] addicted to announcing the numbers of salvation decisions...;" "have very little concern about seeing if there is any fruit...;" and "...look down their noses at other religious leaders who wish to exercise greater care of souls..." give me great pause to understand this as ought but a rant.

I'm not seeing how these two statements indicate a rant.
In any case, whether something is "a rant" or not doesn't determine whether it's true or not. In other words "it's just a rant" is not really a counterargument.

Lee wrote:
I still fail to realize why that which Scripture has clearly communicated as the expectation of the ages should elicit such frustration so as to reconfigure our theology, in terminology if not immediately in practice, in order to...

Who is "reconfiguring theology"?

Lee wrote:
The verbiage that Piper was spouting (that I don't think any of us on this particular board have understood yet), the new nomenclature of "decisionalism" as the current terror on the block of evangelical fundamentalism, even the rise of the "New" reformed movement seem little but an expression of this frustration.

Piper was spouting, eh? Sounded to me like he was pretty much just saying.
I'd be interested in seeing you interact a little with the point of view I posted a couple of posts ago: that you don't say things the same way when you're dealing with a problem as you do when you're talking in a different situation. Evidence: Jesus.

As for the expression of frustration thing... really? So your argument is A. All frustrated people are wrong, B. The folks I'm dismissing are fustrated, C. Therefore, they are wrong?
I think you won't convince many with that one.

Lee wrote:
Let's concentrate on our role as Gospel witnesses and let God concentrate on who is a true convert and who is yet in need of redemption. Frankly, I have all the confidence in the world that the Holy Spirit through the Gospel can reveal the truth of their lost condition to the unbelieving heathen that has never previously heard, or to the kid that may be self-deceived clinging to some decision he wrote down in the 2nd grade. I don't have to accommodate my theological paradigm to any of these scenarios.

"Concentrate" is an interesting choice of words. Who is "concentrating" on who is a true convert and who is not?
In any case, we cannot ignore that problem. As Barkman pointed out, the epistles do not ignore it.

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Quote: Let's concentrate on

Quote:
Let's concentrate on our role as Gospel witnesses and let God concentrate on who is a true convert and who is yet in need of redemption.
Whatever the case with Piper's choice of words and his meaning, this does not seem to be a biblical option.

First, we are commanded to evangelize. Therefore, we must some means of determining who needs to be evangelized since we do not talk to all people the same way. With some, having been convinced by some means of their salvation, we disciple them. With others, having concerns about their salvation, we evangelize them. With some, we may do both because we are unsure.

Second, church membership requires us to pass some sort of public judgment on someone being a "true convert." We are not permitted to "let God concentrate" on that. We are commanded at times to declare people to be outside the church because they bear no marks of true conversion. All the biblical witness concerning churches testify to the fact that it was known who was believed to be in the church and who was believed to be out of the church.

Third, we do a great disservice, a great act of unlove (to coin a word), when we fail to speak to a professing Christian whose life does not bear the marks of true conversion. We allow them to continue down a path that may in fact be false assurance. Again, the Scripture has many references to this, and we cannot disregard those in the name of "letting God concentrate" on it.

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Aaron Blumer wrote: Lee

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Lee wrote:

Dr. Barkman is being a little more gracious than my take on this. This comes across to me more of a rant born out of frustration than a clear assessment of issues that can and should be addressed. Statements like "the present-day church [is ] addicted to announcing the numbers of salvation decisions...;" "have very little concern about seeing if there is any fruit...;" and "...look down their noses at other religious leaders who wish to exercise greater care of souls..." give me great pause to understand this as ought but a rant.

I'm not seeing how these two statements indicate a rant.
In any case, whether something is "a rant" or not doesn't determine whether it's true or not. In other words "it's just a rant" is not really a counterargument.

OK, I'll recant the "rant" as long as you don't push for this being a rationally objective assessment of the majority that make up "the present-day church."

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Lee wrote:
I still fail to realize why that which Scripture has clearly communicated as the expectation of the ages should elicit such frustration so as to reconfigure our theology, in terminology if not immediately in practice, in order to...

Who is "reconfiguring theology"?

As I stated in the previous thread:
"Seeing and savoring Jesus...." and "trusting Jesus [for salvation ]...." are NOT equivalent realities! Piper has provided a whole new definitive description of salvation which is NOT text driven, but paradigm driven. His penchant against "decisionalism" has clouded the simplicity of the Gospel message;"
AND:
"...I have come to a conclusion. Actually, to state things more accurately, I should say that I have come to a realization. Decisionalism is Calvin-speak for anything that does not absolutely affirm pre-conversion regeneration. I'm liking it! It simplifies things. You are either a Calvinist, or you are a decisionalist. And since decisionalism is equivalent to baptismal regeneration, which is equivalent to Judaism, which is equivalent to heresy, you are either a Calvinist or a heretic."

Salvation to "re-configurists" (as equally valid a term as is "decisionalist") is no longer a point in time when a lost person comes under conviction of sin, recognizes via Holy Spirit illumination that Christ is the only solution for that sin, and calls out to Him in faith for salvation. Rather it has become a process of believing recognized as possibly complete when one is "seeing and savoring Jesus" or other such. Yeah, I'm pretty much gonna stick with "re-configuring theology."

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Lee wrote:
The verbiage that Piper was spouting (that I don't think any of us on this particular board have understood yet), the new nomenclature of "decisionalism" as the current terror on the block of evangelical fundamentalism, even the rise of the "New" reformed movement seem little but an expression of this frustration.

Piper was spouting, eh? Sounded to me like he was pretty much just saying.
I'd be interested in seeing you interact a little with the point of view I posted a couple of posts ago: that you don't say things the same way when you're dealing with a problem as you do when you're talking in a different situation. Evidence: Jesus.

Maybe we could all take a page from the Apostle Paul, who had more varied spiritual gifts than most, when he stated "Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?...So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?...in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. (I Cor. 14:6-19)"

Aaron Blumer wrote:
As for the expression of frustration thing... really? So your argument is A. All frustrated people are wrong, B. The folks I'm dismissing are fustrated, C. Therefore, they are wrong?
I think you won't convince many with that one.

If you will suffer me to indulge my cynicism, I don't think that you really think that A,B, and C was my argument.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Lee wrote:
Let's concentrate on our role as Gospel witnesses and let God concentrate on who is a true convert and who is yet in need of redemption. Frankly, I have all the confidence in the world that the Holy Spirit through the Gospel can reveal the truth of their lost condition to the unbelieving heathen that has never previously heard, or to the kid that may be self-deceived clinging to some decision he wrote down in the 2nd grade. I don't have to accommodate my theological paradigm to any of these scenarios.

"Concentrate" is an interesting choice of words. Who is "concentrating" on who is a true convert and who is not?

In answer to your question I'm going to go with Piper and me, in that order.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
In any case, we cannot ignore that problem. As Barkman pointed out, the epistles do not ignore it.

And Piper didn't write the epistles.
There is world of difference between the inspired writers of the epistles penning "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves [Paul ]"; "...brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure....[Peter ]"; or "These things have I written unto you...that ye may know that ye have eternal life...[John ]" with "Believing in Jesus is a soul coming to Jesus to be satisfied in all that he is. That is my definition of faith on the basis of John 6:35. This is not...a decision...[saving faith is ] Seeing and savoring Jesus, being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus, and trusting Jesus...[those three things are ] equivalent realities...,” I think one of the glaring differences is the apostles directive to the individual towards self-examination on very objective terms (II Peter 1; I John) whereas the current thrust seems to be towards some sort of relational depth like Piper's "seeing and savoring Jesus" whatever that may be.

Lee

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Equivalent realities?

Lee, you seem to have lost focus. Much of what you're arguing against here are things nobody is saying.

It might be better to refocus on some simple, solid truths.

1. Nobody truly becomes a Christian without a profound and deep change of heart. (IOW, salvation is not a superficial, merely mental decision)
2. God is the one who saves (IOW, salvation is not a human decision)
3. In salvation, sinners do repent and believe (IOW, in a way, salvation is a decision)
4. The church has always had superficial/false converts.
5. Believers, pastors especially, have to concern themselves with confronting that problem
6. When you are speaking correctively to a problem, you often say things differently in order to emphasize important distinctions.

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Non-Elect Decision

Is it possible for a human to desire salvation but not get it because he is not one of the elect?

For example, what if the aforementioned prisoner heard the Gospel, sincerely desired salvation, but isn't one of those God gave to Jesus to save?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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No

JNoël wrote:
Is it possible for a human to desire salvation but not get it because he is not one of the elect?

For example, what if the aforementioned prisoner heard the Gospel, sincerely desired salvation, but isn't one of those God gave to Jesus to save?


Whosever will may come. If they hear the gospel and desire to repent, they will become a Christian.

"Our task today is to tell people — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells
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JNoël wrote: Is it possible

JNoël wrote:
Is it possible for a human to desire salvation but not get it because he is not one of the elect?

For example, what if the aforementioned prisoner heard the Gospel, sincerely desired salvation, but isn't one of those God gave to Jesus to save?


No, because the non-elect will never "sincerely desire" to repent and believe the Gospel because they have not been enabled to do so by the Spirit.

------------------------------
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Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

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Aaron Blumer wrote:Lee, you

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Lee, you seem to have lost focus. Much of what you're arguing against here are things nobody is saying.

It might be better to refocus on some simple, solid truths.


OK, I'll try and stay focused

Aaron Blumer wrote:
1. Nobody truly becomes a Christian without a profound and deep change of heart. (IOW, salvation is not a superficial, merely mental decision)
And I don't think anyone from the Reformed on this board to the decisionalists here have argued differently.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
2. God is the one who saves (IOW, salvation is not a human decision)

Salvation is all of God--conceived in the mind of God; executed by the Son of God; brought into application by the Spirit of God through conviction and regeneration; communicated and empowered by the Word of God; effectuated through the Triune work in regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Yet throughout the entire inspired communication of the mind of God to man there is not a single narrative, didactic, or implication in either the Old or New Testaments that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the "all of God" presentation. "By faith Abel..."; "...choose life..."; "...repent..."; "...believe on the Lord Jesus Christ..."; "...call upon the Lord Jesus Christ...". It is disingenuous for us to attempt an effort that Scripture does not.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
3. In salvation, sinners do repent and believe (IOW, in a way, salvation is a decision)

It is more than "IOW...salvation is a decision." There is a specific point in time when one passes from death unto life, and that point can be identified because it coincides with belief, faith, repentance, or some other of the Scriptural vernacular of salvation.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
4. The church has always had superficial/false converts.

True, and Scripture has communicated specifics to the church for addressing this problem. Coming up with a new vocabulary of salvation is not one of them.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
5. Believers, pastors especially, have to concern themselves with confronting that problem

Scripturally from beginning to end.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
6. When you are speaking correctively to a problem, you often say things differently in order to emphasize important distinctions.

As one of my mentors often stated: "Go as far as Scripture goes, but stop where Scripture stops." This is my #1 concern through this entire exercise. In a generation past well-meaning people re-defined salvation down to praying the magic words (extra-biblical, but sincere). I fear we are in danger of creating an equally dangerous backlash by re-defining the Biblical presentation of salvation into some philosophical mumbo-jumbo that does not have the power of the simple Gospel behind it.

God chose what words He would use to define salvation and in what exact terms He would couch it. Maybe our best bet to combat any distractions to the Gospel is to limit the great majority of our debate to the best translated terms that accurately communicate the originally inspired writ (the terms of Scripture, if you please). Frankly, I don't think that "seeing and savoring Jesus..." fits the criteria.

Lee

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See and savor

Lee, you seem to agree with pretty much everything that would require a person to see "seeing and savoring Jesus" as one way to describe a genuinely repentant faith. But then you reject it... because Scripture never uses those terms? But it does come pretty close.

Of course that kind of description can't stand alone... but it's still true that nobody believes who does not see and savor, and nobody sees and savors who does not believe. The sinner turns to Christ with the affections/will as well as with the intellect.
And the intellect is not enough.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. All over the OT, true believers are characterized as those who "seek" God.

In one of his letters, Augustine writes:

"The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive the gift, which is very great indeed. .... The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruits. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:16), he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him alone who is able to give it."

I'm sure plenty of see and savor type language can be found in Bernard of Clairvaux as well.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame, Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name, O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art! How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is, None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou, As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now, And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart, Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart, Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below, Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know, And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name, Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless, Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart, Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed, Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries; To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night; And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee, The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be, While endless ages run.

Sure sounds like seeing and savoring to me.
Here's a bit more Bernard:

Jesus, Thou Joy of loving hearts,
Thou Fount of life, Thou Light of men,
From the best bliss that earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to Thee again.

Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood;
Thou savest those that on Thee call;
To them that seek Thee Thou art good,
To them that find Thee all in all.

We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

Our restless spirits yearn for Thee,
Wherever our changeful lot is cast;
Glad when Thy gracious smile we see,
Blessed when our faith can hold Thee fast.

O Jesus, ever with us stay,
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed over the world Thy holy light.

.... seeing and savoring. What a radical new idea?

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Choices...

Greg Long wrote:
JNoël wrote:
Is it possible for a human to desire salvation but not get it because he is not one of the elect?

For example, what if the aforementioned prisoner heard the Gospel, sincerely desired salvation, but isn't one of those God gave to Jesus to save?


No, because the non-elect will never "sincerely desire" to repent and believe the Gospel because they have not been enabled to do so by the Spirit.

So then perhaps when we see analytical/intellectual people who appear sincere about their deduction of the Gospel, or emotional people who appear overwhelmed by the truth of Redemption, and yet, in due time, it becomes clear that there was never a life-changing decision due to a lack of fruit, that possibly their analysis or emotion was still just human/fleshly and wasn't enabled by the Spirit because they weren't one of the elect.

Maybe they are those who were among the stones or the thorns.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

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Choices, exactly.

Gen 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Emphasis added...

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sounds oddly familiar

Lee wrote:
"Go as far as Scripture goes, but stop where Scripture stops."

Adhering to this dictum, one could never clearly or succinctly affirm same substance trinitarianism, as has recently been demonstrated, and under that same dodge.

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DavidO wrote:Lee wrote:"Go

DavidO wrote:
Lee wrote:
"Go as far as Scripture goes, but stop where Scripture stops."

Adhering to this dictum, one could never clearly or succinctly affirm same substance trinitarianism, as has recently been demonstrated, and under that same dodge.


Nonsense! Scripture communicates truth in at least 5 ways: by doctrine, by command, by principle, through precedent, and by illustration. All truth is equal truth though communicated differently.

"Same substance trinitarianism" is clearly taught in the whole of Scripture in a variety of ways. That the whole of orthodoxy sees that in Scripture is not based on a logical argument or a theological paradigm, but because it is there. It is those who have a false paradigm or who rely on human logic that are the anomalies to what orthodoxy has clearly seen.

Separating salvation from a point of decision--i.e., repent, call, believe, etc.? Not so much.

Lee

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Quote: Separating salvation

Quote:
Separating salvation from a point of decision--i.e., repent, call, believe, etc.? Not so much.

A matter of no small dispute, apparently.

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be consistent!

Lee wrote:
DavidO wrote:
Lee wrote:
"Go as far as Scripture goes, but stop where Scripture stops."

Adhering to this dictum, one could never clearly or succinctly affirm same substance trinitarianism, as has recently been demonstrated, and under that same dodge.


Nonsense! Scripture communicates truth in at least 5 ways: by doctrine, by command, by principle, through precedent, and by illustration. All truth is equal truth though communicated differently.

"Same substance trinitarianism" is clearly taught in the whole of Scripture in a variety of ways. That the whole of orthodoxy sees that in Scripture is not based on a logical argument or a theological paradigm, but because it is there. It is those who have a false paradigm or who rely on human logic that are the anomalies to what orthodoxy has clearly seen.

Separating salvation from a point of decision--i.e., repent, call, believe, etc.? Not so much.


I'm sorry, but where is the verse that explicitly says the word "trinitarianism" or "trinity"? I would love to see it.

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Caleb S wrote: Lee

Caleb S wrote:
Lee wrote:
DavidO wrote:
Lee wrote:
"Go as far as Scripture goes, but stop where Scripture stops."

Adhering to this dictum, one could never clearly or succinctly affirm same substance trinitarianism, as has recently been demonstrated, and under that same dodge.


Nonsense! Scripture communicates truth in at least 5 ways: by doctrine, by command, by principle, through precedent, and by illustration. All truth is equal truth though communicated differently.

"Same substance trinitarianism" is clearly taught in the whole of Scripture in a variety of ways. That the whole of orthodoxy sees that in Scripture is not based on a logical argument or a theological paradigm, but because it is there. It is those who have a false paradigm or who rely on human logic that are the anomalies to what orthodoxy has clearly seen.

Separating salvation from a point of decision--i.e., repent, call, believe, etc.? Not so much.


I'm sorry, but where is the verse that explicitly says the word "trinitarianism" or "trinity"? I would love to see it.

Neither is plenary-verbal. We could play these word games for a while.

Why not let's cut to the chase? I made a pretty bold statement a few posts up--"Yet throughout the entire inspired communication of the mind of God to man there is not a single narrative, didactic, or implication in either the Old or New Testaments that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation." I'll be honest, I made the statement somewhat off the cuff since threads like this do not lend themselves to an ability to pour hours of research and study into every statement. And if I am wrong I will gladly be corrected by Scripture truth.

What I am looking for is not a proof-text verse, or a magic motto, or anything kitschy. What I am looking for is Scripture, either by doctrine, command, principle, precedent, illustration, or other mode I may have missed, "that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation."

Lee

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by implication here?

Acts 13:48 wrote:
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

The belief seems something of a consequence here, no?

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John 10:27 wrote: My sheep

John 10:27 wrote:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Here the sheep hear because they are His. They are not His because they decide to hear. He says, they are mine--they hear me. I know them, and they follow.

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Seems appropos

Quote:
My plea to all of us who have an interest in salvation doctrine (and there ought to be many more than there are) is that we reflect thoughtfully on these questions and seek accurate understanding, not only of Scripture, but also of what the people we disagree with really believe.

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DavidO wrote: Acts 13:48

DavidO wrote:
Acts 13:48 wrote:
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

The belief seems something of a consequence here, no?


Belief is still decisional.

DavidO wrote:

John 10:27

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Here the sheep hear because they are His. They are not His because they decide to hear. He says, they are mine--they hear me. I know them, and they follow.


Follow is also decisional.

Lee

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To Follow is a Decision

To follow is a decision. Not to follow is also a decision. But Jesus doesn't say, "My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they may decide to follow me, or again, they may decide not to."

This is an excellent example of the dynamic at work, and a helpful clarification if considered thoughtfully. Since evidently "to not follow me" is not an option for one of Christ's sheep, it follows that the work of regeneration which enables Christ's sheep to hear His voice also gives them an ability and desire to follow Him which they did not have before. Do they "decide" to follow Jesus? Yes. Can they decide to NOT follow Jesus? Not when you realize that decisions are based upon internal desires, which are related to nature. Can a rabbit decide to eat meat? It might be possible, but extremely doubtful. Why? Because that would be contrary to his desire which is predicated upon nature, and his nature dictates that he doesn't like to eat meat.

This is why unregenerate sinners will always make the choice to not follow Christ, and regenerate saints will aways make the choice to follow Christ. It's a matter of desire which flows out of nature. Old creatures desire darkness rather than light. Always. New creatures desire light more than darkness. When we understand this, we realize that man's will is not really free, and it is certainly not his savior. In reality, for the sinner, his will is his primary problem. His will is enslaved to sin and opposed to God, and will remain that way until God changes his nature and thus his desires.

G. N. Barkman

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I don't deny that there is a

I don't deny that there is a volitional element to it. But I think there's too much more involved to refer to it as merely a decision. So much so that using the term decision may do damage to a proper and full understanding which, I think, is Piper's point (not that I'm a fanboy).

Could those appointed have decided not to be appointed? Could the sheep choose not to hear and follow?

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2 Timothy 1:1-9

Lee wrote:
Neither is plenary-verbal. We could play these word games for a while.

Why not let's cut to the chase? I made a pretty bold statement a few posts up--"Yet throughout the entire inspired communication of the mind of God to man there is not a single narrative, didactic, or implication in either the Old or New Testaments that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation." I'll be honest, I made the statement somewhat off the cuff since threads like this do not lend themselves to an ability to pour hours of research and study into every statement. And if I am wrong I will gladly be corrected by Scripture truth.

What I am looking for is not a proof-text verse, or a magic motto, or anything kitschy. What I am looking for is Scripture, either by doctrine, command, principle, precedent, illustration, or other mode I may have missed, "that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation."


The bolding was added by me.

Here is a verse for your examination. The passage is 2 Timothy 1:1-9. Clearly, verse five is indicating Paul's recalling their sincere faith. After some discussion we arrive at verse 8. "So don't be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. (2Ti 1:8 CSB)" They are exhorted to not be ashamed, but instead they are to share in suffering. "God" is the antecedent of the relative pronoun in verse 9, so now we are given a description of God through a subordinate clause. This just means that verse 9 is a subordinate thought, piggybacking off the mention of God in 8. Here is verse 9. "He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2Ti 1:9 CSB)" God has saved us and called us with a holy calling. This was not done according to our works. Please note, there is no specificity given to this work; it is just a generic "works". God did not save them and call them according to their works; rather this saving and calling was according to His own purpose and grace. Further clarification is given by the temporal element being added into the picture. This purpose and grace was given to them in Christ Jesus before time began. Again, there was no decision made at that time. The verse itself eliminates the generic category of works (of which decisions are a part). Therefore, while faith is mentioned is verse five, and commands are given in verse eight, which should motivate decisions (suffering), due to intervening context, salvation here is being depicted void of human decision. Through both the generic use of "work" and the "non-existent" status of decision makers. (unless, of course, someone wants to isogetically read into the passage what it eliminates, namely foreseen faith, which is a human work) I could bring up other passages that approach "salvation" from a God-centered perspective, but I would rather see what happens to this verse and how other's grids interact with it.

Regarding my "trinity" comment, I was just saying that if Piper's wording goes beyond the Scripture, then the word "Trinity" does too; and if one is going to be consistent in chastisement, then we need to also chastise people who use the word "Trinity" and "verbal plenary". Consistency!

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DavidO wrote: I don't deny

DavidO wrote:
I don't deny that there is a volitional element to it. But I think there's too much more involved to refer to it as merely a decision. So much so that using the term decision may do damage to a proper and full understanding which, I think, is Piper's point (not that I'm a fanboy).

Could those appointed have decided not to be appointed? Could the sheep choose not to hear and follow?


Dr. Barkman lost me somewhere around the rabbit. Maybe my mind just went off on a rabbit trail there (joke, Dr. Barkman, joke; I have been a great admirer of yours for many years now).

My emphasis is not that there isn't more involved than a mere decision. Where my point lies is that Scripture does not separate the matter of salvation from a point of decision couched in any number of terms, and since Scripture doesn't attempt it, we would do well not to attempt it either. Piper and others are doing linguistic gymnastics in their effort to do just that for which we had a 2-week thread guessing what he may have meant by it, and now we are days into the second verse of the same song.

Lee

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Caleb S wrote: Lee

Caleb S wrote:
Lee wrote:
Neither is plenary-verbal. We could play these word games for a while.

Why not let's cut to the chase? I made a pretty bold statement a few posts up--"Yet throughout the entire inspired communication of the mind of God to man there is not a single narrative, didactic, or implication in either the Old or New Testaments that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation." I'll be honest, I made the statement somewhat off the cuff since threads like this do not lend themselves to an ability to pour hours of research and study into every statement. And if I am wrong I will gladly be corrected by Scripture truth.

What I am looking for is not a proof-text verse, or a magic motto, or anything kitschy. What I am looking for is Scripture, either by doctrine, command, principle, precedent, illustration, or other mode I may have missed, "that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation."


The bolding was added by me.

Here is a verse for your examination. The passage is 2 Timothy 1:1-9. Clearly, verse five is indicating Paul's recalling their sincere faith. After some discussion we arrive at verse 8. "So don't be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. (2Ti 1:8 CSB)" They are exhorted to not be ashamed, but instead they are to share in suffering. "God" is the antecedent of the relative pronoun in verse 9, so now we are given a description of God through a subordinate clause. This just means that verse 9 is a subordinate thought, piggybacking off the mention of God in 8. Here is verse 9. "He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2Ti 1:9 CSB)" God has saved us and called us with a holy calling. This was not done according to our works. Please note, there is no specificity given to this work; it is just a generic "works". God did not save them and call them according to their works; rather this saving and calling was according to His own purpose and grace. Further clarification is given by the temporal element being added into the picture. This purpose and grace was given to them in Christ Jesus before time began. Again, there was no decision made at that time. The verse itself eliminates the generic category of works (of which decisions are a part). Therefore, while faith is mentioned is verse five, and commands are given in verse eight, which should motivate decisions (suffering), due to intervening context, salvation here is being depicted void of human decision. Through both the generic use of "work" and the "non-existent" status of decision makers. (unless, of course, someone wants to isogetically read into the passage what it eliminates, namely foreseen faith, which is a human work) I could bring up other passages that approach "salvation" from a God-centered perspective, but I would rather see what happens to this verse and how other's grids interact with it.

Regarding my "trinity" comment, I was just saying that if Piper's wording goes beyond the Scripture, then the word "Trinity" does too; and if one is going to be consistent in chastisement, then we need to also chastise people who use the word "Trinity" and "verbal plenary". Consistency!

I read with interest your comments, if not with understanding. I think I got thrown off somewhere between piggybacking and isogetically. My question is do you really think that this passage was put here to communicate a disconnect between God's salvation and man's volition when Paul concludes the thought with "For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." ? Personally, I'm thinking not.

Lee

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Distinctions

Quote:
My emphasis is not that there isn't more involved than a mere decision. Where my point lies is that Scripture does not separate the matter of salvation from a point of decision couched in any number of terms, and since Scripture doesn't attempt it, we would do well not to attempt it either.

This is really the problem.
The study of Scripture involves more than repeating biblical statements. We rightly interpret, compare, combine, systematize. In Genesis 1, we meet a very systematic God who makes the world in a manifestly orderly way when He could have simply spoken it all into existence simultaneously. Part of the point is to express the value of "systematicness" for us as His creatures.

Of course, systems can be taken too far or be poorly executed. But my point is that we really are not gaining understanding of Scripture if we don't compare Scripture with Scripture, use reasoning, and arrive at distinctions that are not necessarily explicit in the texts if you look at them one by one in sequence. We need to be synoptic not just sequential in our study.

Then you have the whole business of application. Nobody holds that we should read the Bible, then stop short of applying it to what's actually happening within and around us. That application process often requires arriving at distinctions as well.

But returning to the question of God's deciding and man's deciding... I really don't see how anyone can claim they are "not separate" (i.e., distinct) in Scripture. As one quick example, take 1 Thessalonians (comes to mind only because I preached through it recently). 1 Thess. 1.4 has God's decision ("your election by God") and it's not until 1 Thess. 1.6 that we get the human decision ("you became followers").
This happens all the time in the NT (and the Old, in the case of Israel).

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Rabbits and Nature

Sorry to be confusing, but this is really at the heart of the subject of decisions. No one that I know denies that men make decisions, and that they make them freely. If by "freely" we mean they are perfectly free to make the decision that pleases them.

The problem arises when we imagine that "freely" means without reference to nature and desire. Am I free to choose green peas? Yes. Will I? Not likely. I'd have to be virtually starving and without any options. For whatever reason, that I cannot explain, I do not like green peas. I like nearly every other vegetable, and eat them eagerly, but I don't choose green peas because I don't like them. It's as simple as that.

The Bible is clear that sinners don't choose light because they don't like it. Are they free to choose light? Yes. Will they ever choose it? No. Not until their desires change. Sinners cannot change their desires any more than I can change my life-long distaste for green peas.

For a sinner to choose light, righteousness, Christ, something must first transpire to change his desires. Regeneration is that something. The natural man does not receive spiritual realities because he does not understand them and they do not appeal to him. For man to desire spiritual realities, he must be inwardly changed. God's Spirit must change his nature from that of "natural" to "spiritual." This is a change of categories, and it is a change of natures.

We are free to choose whatever we desire, but we always choose according to our desires. We cannot choose our desires. They are predicated upon our nature. Nature dictates desire. Desire dictates choice. Left to himself, a sinner will never choose Christ. Grace rescues sinners from their self-destruction. Grace gives sinners a nature that desires Christ, the only One who can rescue sinners from freely chosen destruction. We often sing, "O to be saved from myself, dear Lord, O to be lost in thee."

Perhaps this post will not leave you lost on a rabbit trail.

G. N. Barkman

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Aaron Blumer][quote

Aaron Blumer ][quote wrote:
...But returning to the question of God's deciding and man's deciding... I really don't see how anyone can claim they are "not separate" (i.e., distinct) in Scripture. As one quick example, take 1 Thessalonians (comes to mind only because I preached through it recently). 1 Thess. 1.4 has God's decision ("your election by God") and it's not until 1 Thess. 1.6 that we get the human decision ("you became followers").
This happens all the time in the NT (and the Old, in the case of Israel).

And in 3 short verses of a singular context you have the "all of God" nature of salvation and the decisional characteristics of salvation presented in union, not as a matter to be separated. It increasingly appears to me that the drive to separate the two in our minds and, eventually, our presentation of the Gospel is to bolster some personal agenda over the simplicity of the Gospel--"whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Lee

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Separated

Lee... I'm not clear on how you're using "separated." They are clearly distinct in 1 Thess. 1. By "separated" do you mean talking about one without talking about the other, or teaching that one can happen without the other, or that there can be a gap in time between one and the other, or what? It's not clear to me who is "separating" them in any sense other than accurately observing that they are distinct.

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I think the problem here is

I think the problem here is that Lee is building a whole construct on something that likely was never intended. I doubt that Piper intended to remove any volitional aspect from salvation. He would clearly affirm it after the work of God in regeneration.

And the easiest way to show this is to read what Piper says: "Conversion is no mere human decision. It is a human decision. But oh, so much more! Repentant faith (or believing repentance) is based on an awesome miracle performed by the sovereign God. " (Desiring God, 65).

Just previous to that Piper speaks about why he doesn't "use the straightforward, biblical command, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved'? Why bring in this new terminology of Christian Hedonism?"

He responds in two parts, and I give only one: "We are surrounded by unconverted people who think that they do believe in Jesus. Drunks on the street say they believe. Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe. Elderly people who haven't sought worship or fellowship for forty years say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus" (54). His point is that the Bible presents saving faith in many more ways that simply "believe." (His second answer talks of the many other ways that the Bible describes coming to Jesus.)

So Piper's point is likely to address this second group of people who "made a decision" but didn't actually get converted.

So Lee, I would encourage you to take another look and walk this back a little ways.

The contrast is not Calvinism vs. decisionalism. Arminians also reject decisionism (including those Arminians who prefer the term biblicist). Decisionalism or decisionism is contrasted with actual belief. Decisionism is praying a prayer and thinking that fixes everything. They are marked by lives with no fruit.

So, if we do away with this false construct, we probably do away with most of the thread.

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Lee wrote:Caleb S

Lee wrote:
Caleb S wrote:
Lee wrote:
Neither is plenary-verbal. We could play these word games for a while.

Why not let's cut to the chase? I made a pretty bold statement a few posts up--"Yet throughout the entire inspired communication of the mind of God to man there is not a single narrative, didactic, or implication in either the Old or New Testaments that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation." I'll be honest, I made the statement somewhat off the cuff since threads like this do not lend themselves to an ability to pour hours of research and study into every statement. And if I am wrong I will gladly be corrected by Scripture truth.

What I am looking for is not a proof-text verse, or a magic motto, or anything kitschy. What I am looking for is Scripture, either by doctrine, command, principle, precedent, illustration, or other mode I may have missed, "that separates the decisional nature of salvation from the 'all of God' presentation."


The bolding was added by me.

Here is a verse for your examination. The passage is 2 Timothy 1:1-9. Clearly, verse five is indicating Paul's recalling their sincere faith. After some discussion we arrive at verse 8. "So don't be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. (2Ti 1:8 CSB)" They are exhorted to not be ashamed, but instead they are to share in suffering. "God" is the antecedent of the relative pronoun in verse 9, so now we are given a description of God through a subordinate clause. This just means that verse 9 is a subordinate thought, piggybacking off the mention of God in 8. Here is verse 9. "He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2Ti 1:9 CSB)" God has saved us and called us with a holy calling. This was not done according to our works. Please note, there is no specificity given to this work; it is just a generic "works". God did not save them and call them according to their works; rather this saving and calling was according to His own purpose and grace. Further clarification is given by the temporal element being added into the picture. This purpose and grace was given to them in Christ Jesus before time began. Again, there was no decision made at that time. The verse itself eliminates the generic category of works (of which decisions are a part). Therefore, while faith is mentioned is verse five, and commands are given in verse eight, which should motivate decisions (suffering), due to intervening context, salvation here is being depicted void of human decision. Through both the generic use of "work" and the "non-existent" status of decision makers. (unless, of course, someone wants to isogetically read into the passage what it eliminates, namely foreseen faith, which is a human work) I could bring up other passages that approach "salvation" from a God-centered perspective, but I would rather see what happens to this verse and how other's grids interact with it.

Regarding my "trinity" comment, I was just saying that if Piper's wording goes beyond the Scripture, then the word "Trinity" does too; and if one is going to be consistent in chastisement, then we need to also chastise people who use the word "Trinity" and "verbal plenary". Consistency!

I read with interest your comments, if not with understanding. I think I got thrown off somewhere between piggybacking and isogetically. My question is do you really think that this passage was put here to communicate a disconnect between God's salvation and man's volition when Paul concludes the thought with "For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day." ? Personally, I'm thinking not.


Do you really not know what a subordinate clause is? I don't wish to be rude, but it seems that if you don't agree with it or it may be used against you, then it is some kind of pejorative confusing jargon or argument. I was just making comments about the text, and I sought my best to keep my comments based therein. The appeal to verse 12 (in your post) completely ignores the intervening context. For clarity sake, "intervening context" means "the verses between verse 9 and verse 12. In particular, the appeal ignores verse 10, which begins with these words in the NIV. "but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior". It is clear from this verse that a progress through time has been made in the Apostle's thinking. It is through this progress of time that we eventually end up in verse 12, which is at the Apostle's present day. Let's cut to the chase. This just means that your posting of verse 12 only serves to ignore the argument made in verse 9 by not properly taking into account the context.

And as Aaron has already said, It completely depends upon what you mean by "separate" here. The text clearly is making a temporal separation and ultimate reason separation in verse 9. So how are you using separation. And as I don't wish to run the risk of being misunderstood, I totally agree that "salvation" (in a broad sense) does include a human exercise of the will. However, the Bible itself uses the term "salvation" in a more nuanced sense that "just" the broad sense.

I'm strongly considering posting some "cut to the chase" material written from long ago; it is where "the rubber met the road" for me on the issue of how one is to view decisions.

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Has God predetermined every detail in the universe, including si

This is a helpful video for understanding how Piper things about predestination and free will.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76oLJBZu7yg

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A Pet Peve Of Eternal Significance

The following is a note that I wrote March 2008 for my facebook "friends". I did not have this thread in mind. However, since this thread has such a nearly direct correspondence to this topic, then it seems to be a good idea to post it here. I hope that it will be useful and helpful in this discussion. ---to God be the glory.

=================================================
When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

In this passage Paul is looking back to a prior visit to the Corinthians. He is telling them about it. He did not come to them announcing the testimony of God with a brilliance of speech or wisdom. He did this in two ways. (1) He determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In the first chapter, one can find that Jesus Christ crucified is foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews (1:23). So Paul came with a gospel message that was contrary to the acceptable norms of thought in the two cultures. (2) Paul did not come to them announcing the testimony of God with brilliance of speech or wisdom in a second way. He came to them in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. In a culture that highly prized the ability of public speaking, especially the ability to persuade through speech, to move an audience through one’s words, Paul comes on the scene in a manner with no bravado, no grand oration (certainly the gospel message is profound on a level different than the Corinthian level though), no cultural persuasive techniques. Instead he comes on the scene in contrast with the cultural norms. He comes in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. He comes in such a way, in message and manner, that demonstrates weakness; and he does so that their faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.

Paul’s purpose is stated in terms that exclude men’s faith from being on the wrong object: “that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” He does not want men to be trusting in the wrong thing. It is this issue of a misplaced faith, or having the wrong object of faith, that I would like to comment on further.

Faith has an object. In the gospel one’s faith should be in Jesus Christ, in His atoning work on the cross. He took the hit from the Father for sins. He was the substitute. His crushing was the satisfaction of the wrath of God. And I would add, one’s faith should be in Jesus Christ at the exclusion of all else. This is why it is so important to have the proper understanding of depravity, for a proper understanding of depravity (man’s sinfulness) drives one from self-trust to a trust--whole and complete trust--in Jesus.

Here is the issue that I can finally get to now, and I say these things well knowing that my observations are often fallible. I have a bittersweet enjoyment of listening to people’s testimonies of salvation. It is sweet when I hear them adoring Christ alone and looking in faith entirely to Him. However, it is bitter when I hear (perhaps unknowingly or unconsciously from the person) a person virtually describe their salvation in terms of what they did instead of in terms of what Christ did.

Now certainly our will is active in believing, but it is an error to look to your will in faith as well as to Christ. This is to have two objects of faith. That is the way of stating things in conceptual terms. Here are some experiential terms.

Perhaps this may describe you, but have you ever heard someone say that he is saved because "he believed in Jesus"? Have you ever heard someone say that he is saved because he "accepted Jesus into his heart"? Have you ever heard someone say that he is saved because of the different events that happened in his past? Now certainly there is a personal historical aspect in describing the events that led to our salvation, but it is entirely an error to view those events as ultimately saving in any sense. Why is this? It is an error to view those events as saving in any ultimate sense because those events did not save you; Jesus Christ saved you. I’m just pointing out that it is quite possible that one may be viewing something they did or the events in their life in some sort of saving sense; this is to have a misplaced faith. No one is saved because of his action of believing in Jesus. This is not a proper view of faith. It is to include as the object of faith one’s own believing so that now one is trusting in both his believing and Christ. It is to have two objects of faith. It is no longer “Christ alone”.

Again, I repeat, this is why it is so very very very very important to come to Jesus with nothing to bring, destroyed by one’s own sin, utterly devastated, with an annihilated self. Jesus then becomes everything, and one looks past his action of believing to the Jesus that is everything. He alone can save. He alone is one’s only hope. He alone is the cleft for the sinner. He alone is the rock upon which one stands. A song expresses these things in a grand way.

All the labors of my hands
Could not meet thy laws demands
Could my zeal no respite know
Could my tears forever flow
All for sin could not atone
Thou must save and thou alone!

Nothing in my hands I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling
Naked come to thee for dress
Helpless look to thee for grace
To thy fountain Lord I fly
Wash me Savior or I die

As a word of warning, I’m not saying that if you ever said the above things, that now you need to view yourself as unsaved. My only point is that if you have said those things or described your salvation in terms of what you did, I only hope that you would examine exactly who or what you really are trusting in. Is your faith really in Christ “alone”? This is my pet peeve. My question is, “Who are you trusting in right now for your salvation?” And I hope that one would continually say that Jesus is continually my only hope (not because it is the proper response but because it is an accurate reflection of a genuine heart).

In proclaiming the gospel to the Corinthians Paul did not want the Corinthians to have a misplaced faith. My aim is the same. I don’t want others to have a misplaced faith, so I am writing concerning my pet peeve. C. H. Spurgeon in his book “All Of Grace” said the following, and with his comments this note will end.

“Still, I again remind you that faith is only the channel or aqueduct, and not the fountainhead, and we must not look so much to it as to exalt it above the divine source of all blessing which lies in the grace of God. Never make a Christ out of your faith, nor think of it as if it were the independent source of your salvation. Our life is found in 'looking unto Jesus,' not in looking to our own faith.”

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Often exaggerated

The degree to which people who say "I'm saved because I believed" think that the power was in the faith itself and that Christ was not the one who did the actual saving is often exaggerated.
I have heard a few talk like faith had mysterious saving power all it's own, but 99.9999% of them were in pop culture (songs, TV, movies, etc.).
And I grew up regularly exposed to the revivalist strain in fundamentalism (though, thankfully, mostly under the expositional strain). My point is that confusing faith itself with the object of faith is really not common in fundamentalism even where long, pleading invitations are the norm.
Slightly more common is the idea--mostly among the very young--that glibly saying a prayer saved them. You just about have to be a child to really think a prayer does the saving (as opposed to the One you were praying to).

But how widespread that particular problem is (confusion between faith and its object) is really not the topic of the OP or the thread.
Nobody here is saying it's a good idea to tell people faith itself saves (like some kind of rope tied to us at one end and nothing at all at the other end as we sink in the mire). And in all my years of sitting through evangelistic meetings, I don't recall hearing anyone even imply that... even once.
(Interestingly, I did struggle as a young child with thinking that praying certain words was required... but even then, I knew the One I prayed the words to was the actual Savior.)

I'm against superficial or misplaced decisions. But the cure for that doesn't depend on any particular theological system. The cure is just the simple gospel.

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OK, so here's the exaggerated?

At their extremes, Calvinists claim Eph. 1 is all about God's doing: that He prompts, tugs, clobbers those He knows will accept Him and believe. It had to be, since man left to his own choices would never be able to see a new creation that he doesn't have until he is saved. I think most of the posts here have agreed with Piper that man almost has no choice and back to Calvin, it is irresistible.

This doesn't jive with all scriptures however, for example Adam and Eve had the choice of which tree to disobey with, and God took away the 2nd choice by driving them out of the garden and protecting His ability to save them. But it had to happen quickly since they still had the choice to eat of the 2nd tree. Praise the Lord He drove them out!

"Whosoever will may come" is another proof text for the reformed-reformation.

Look, my parents are Caucasian. It was predestined that if they had kids, I would be conformed to those genes. Just like one born an Israelite would be a chosen-nation person, he or she would still have to believe in God or choose an idol to worship. Chosen-nation status was their predestination.

The letter to the Ephesians is clear. When the Lord presented the evidence of things unseen, I believed and He performed in me what He predestined (or elected) for me: Among so many other values of the cross - redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, justification, Spirit baptism and sealing, adoption, completeness, citizenship, indwelling, joint heirs, eternal security and some 24 more. He did all that so I could not boast, not even in my easy believing in Him. Trusting Him is to prove that I had a God-sized vacuum only He could fill, and He did so graciously at my request.

When in doubt, it's best to go to The Apostle Paul and not to reformers or neo-reformers.

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Clarifying the previous post

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The degree to which people who say "I'm saved because I believed" think that the power was in the faith itself and that Christ was not the one who did the actual saving is often exaggerated.
I have heard a few talk like faith had mysterious saving power all it's own, but 99.9999% of them were in pop culture (songs, TV, movies, etc.).
And I grew up regularly exposed to the revivalist strain in fundamentalism (though, thankfully, mostly under the expositional strain). My point is that confusing faith itself with the object of faith is really not common in fundamentalism even where long, pleading invitations are the norm.
Slightly more common is the idea--mostly among the very young--that glibly saying a prayer saved them. You just about have to be a child to really think a prayer does the saving (as opposed to the One you were praying to).

But how widespread that particular problem is (confusion between faith and its object) is really not the topic of the OP or the thread.
Nobody here is saying it's a good idea to tell people faith itself saves (like some kind of rope tied to us at one end and nothing at all at the other end as we sink in the mire). And in all my years of sitting through evangelistic meetings, I don't recall hearing anyone even imply that... even once.
(Interestingly, I did struggle as a young child with thinking that praying certain words was required... but even then, I knew the One I prayed the words to was the actual Savior.)

I'm against superficial or misplaced decisions. But the cure for that doesn't depend on any particular theological system. The cure is just the simple gospel.


Perhaps the quote by Spurgeon at the end was misleading. In writing that material, I never made a distinction between "faith" and "the act of believing" and (the popular terminology on this thread) "decision". The post was not at all focused upon believing in faith; the post was focused upon believing in one's own believing (faith and the act are joined). Restated, the post was zeroing in on including one's own "will" as an object of belief.

This comes from not looking entirely to Christ on account of never having self destroyed by sin in one's own mind. There is still room for faith in self, if one has not been devastated by the proper view of his sin (as so much more than just deeds or a judicial standing before God, but into the very core of his being). This would most likely be unconscious for the person, if no one ever directly addressed it. Is this version better suited for being relevant to this thread?

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understanding what we disagree with

JT Hoekstra wrote:
At their extremes, Calvinists claim Eph. 1 is all about God's doing: that He prompts, tugs, clobbers those He knows will accept Him and believe. It had to be, since man left to his own choices would never be able to see a new creation that he doesn't have until he is saved. I think most of the posts here have agreed with Piper that man almost has no choice and back to Calvin, it is irresistible.

Again, I want to encourage non-Calvinists to take the time to understand what it is that they're disagreeing with. It doesn't do any good to shoot down a position nobody holds.
Augustinian (aka Calvinist) soteriology teaches that a sinner is always completely free to choose anything his heart desires. That may actually be something all Calvinists believe (though there are many things Calvinists have a variety of views on).

The Scriptures are clear that, by nature, a sinner does not want to believe. He is hostile to God and alienated. His foolish heart is darkened. He does not seek after God. (Col.1.21, Eph.4:18, Rom.3:11, Eph.2.1)

If the sinner, by nature, doesn't want God and doesn't even want to want God, something outside Him must free him from his nature. In classical Arminianism, prevenient grace does that freeing. In Augustine/Calvin/etc. the Holy Spirit does that freeing as part of the effectual call (or some very closely related event... I confess to getting pretty bored with some of the fine distinctions some Calvinists enjoy expounding on at great length).

There are only so many possibilities for accounting for when/how a sinner who has no interest in God acquires that interest.

1) Random circumstances (I think we all reject that one, don't we?)
2) He himself (somehow he fixes his own "wanter" even though he is not interested in fixing it?)
3) The Spirit of God acting directly or through some secondary cause
4) The Spirit of God responding to the sinner (but this is circular, see #2... what is there in the sinner to "respond" to?)
5) Circumstances brought about by God (but if we're willing to have God arranging it via circumstances, why not let Eph. 2.1 mean what it says and have Him arranging it via the Spirit?)
6) Something I've overlooked?

As for "whosoever will may come"... this has never been a problem. Whoever wants to may indeed come. But how does he begin wanting to?

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Easy

The best answer that I have to your question, Aaron, is that the enabling grace to want to repent is itself a Divine Gift. I would say that it is 'built in' to the presentation of the Gospel witness, but we have all heard stories of men and women who said that they finally started searching for God after their life fell apart, and God graciously saved them. Eric Metaxas told that same story in the Filing posted earlier today.

To be honest - it really doesn't matter. At some point, we just have to let go of our own questions and logic and just trust that God will draw and that God will enable and man will respond. We might all be better off to spend as much time doing the evangelist's work instead of trying to make all the pieces fit into our minds or logical systems.

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Quote: the enabling grace to

Quote:
the enabling grace to want to repent is itself a Divine Gift. I would say that it is 'built in' to the presentation of the Gospel witness
Do those who never hear a "presentation of the Gospel witness" have this divine gift of enabling grace?

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Enabling Grace

Some would say that enabling grace to understand and believe the Gospel is "built in" to the Gospel presentation. So I have heard. The question is, what does God say? Does the Bible teach this? Where does the Bible teach this? (Or is this assumed. Is it a logical necessity to make a particular theological position "work.")

G. N. Barkman

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Prevenient grace... it matters

Quote:
To be honest - it really doesn't matter.

I think it matters... but how much it matters depends a lot on where people go with it. I definitely believe some overemphasize these questions. But where it matters is when answers to those questions (or that question.. how does a sinner start wanting salvation?) become the basis for other ideas and methods and attitudes.

If the sinner is automatically brought to zero (on a "hostility to God" vs. "trusting God" scale) when the gospel comes to him, we really still have a problem: how does he get from zero to plus one, etc.? He doesn't become a believer by having hostility neutralized. He becomes a believer by finding God's grace and forgiveness positively attractive.

So how we think that happens has implications. If we think he does so by being a tiny bit wiser or better than the next guy, he has reason to boast (cf. Eph.2.9). Also, if he is at zero and people have the power to tip him over toward faith, then the "soul winner" has reason to boast... and maybe reason to develop methods that (seem to) move people to faith, testing them mostly by their seeming effectiveness.
Granted, the latter (in the case of Finney's version of revivalism), requires a bit more in the mix than just the idea that "I might have the power to persuade a sinner to believe." It usually also has a faulty view of depravity--and therefore conversion--in the mix: "The sinner has no guilt or corruption from Adam. His guilt and corruption come when he sins, so just I need to persuade him to stop sinning." I think none of us would quite take that position (I hope not... it's the Pelagian heresy).

Still... my point is just that answers to these questions to have implications for how we do Matt.28:19ff, as well as other things we believe and do.

I remember asking someone of the classical Arminian persuasion in a previous thread whether "prevenient grace" comes to everyone who hears, has already come to all who are born, comes only to some who hear at a certain point in the process, or what. I don't remember getting a clear answer on that. I'd love to know what Jacob Arminius himself held on that question if that can be determined.

What we do know is that things in this contingent universe (only God is not contingent) have causes. Some people try to account for the change of a sinner's heart from hostility to faith in terms of God causing it. Others go in a direction of the sinner himself or other human beings causing it. Many try to take a "cause-evasive" position: not in so many words, but when boiled down, they have some kind of uncaused change. Randomness... which is impossible.

To me it boils down to this:
1- It cannot be man caused (man is only instrumental at best)
2- It cannot be uncaused
3- It must be God-caused

This is a logical argument. When you look at Scripture--surprise--that's also what it seems to say.

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Answers

@ Larry - I don't know; that's not my problem to figure out. I'm commanded to go, teach, and evangelize. Not to worry about the eternal state of those who have never heard. I'm no Pelagian, if that's what you are asking.

@ GN Barkman - good question. I'll have to look into that, but I am immediately thinking of John 6:44-48 and tying that in to this discussion.

@ Aaron - whose problem is it to resolve? You say that 'we still' have a problem to resolve, but I don't see anywhere in the Bible that God commands us to reconcile this whole process together. That's not a 'me' problem - that's a God problem, and we ought to leave it with Him. I believe what I believe because it's what makes best sense to me as God reveals some of what goes on in His Word, but I'm not prepared to die for it. As I just said - my responsibility is to obey, not to determine all the secret workings of God.

And just for the record, I'm not the only one with a 'cause-evasive problem' - Reformed and Compatibilist Calvinists have the same issue, as http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-origins-of-evil-and-will-of-man ]this thread pointed out.

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beg to differ

Jay C. wrote:

And just for the record, I'm not the only one with a 'cause-evasive problem' - Reformed and Compatibilist Calvinists have the same issue, as http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-origins-of-evil-and-will-of-man ]this thread pointed out.

The only problem that that thread pointed out is that if you beg the question of libertarian freedom and human autonomy, then you will have a problem with Scripture's view of causality. The problem is that libertarian freedom cannot be supported from Scripture; it is a self-refuting philosophical imposition. And the problem is that human autonomy is the fallen mindset since Genesis 3, and so it should not be the norm for the believer who is to have a renewed mind. If you interpret Scripture with that kind of hermeneutic in place, then severe problems will result.

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Quote: @ Larry - I don't

Quote:
@ Larry - I don't know; that's not my problem to figure out.
I have no problem with this, but why isn't it okay for someone to say that God is absolutely sovereign and man is absolutely responsible, and it's not my problem to figure it out? You seemed to reject that type of mystery, but then invoke it here.

Quote:
I'm no Pelagian, if that's what you are asking.
The position you espoused is Arminianism, except I don't think Arminianism ties the enablement to the hearing of the gospel. They say that God enables everyone with a prevenient grace.

PErsonally, I believe enabling grace to want to repent in a divine gift. Romans 2 actually calls it "the kindness of God." I am not sure where you would go in Scripture to tie it to the gospel, or how you would answer the "fundamental fairness" problem for those to whom God does not sent his gospel message.

So in reality, I don't think you gain anything here.

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John 6:44ff

Jay C,

You have landed on one of the texts that teaches the opposite of what you suggested earlier, namely that everyone who hears the Gospel is given the ability to understand and believe it. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44) What does this teach?

1) That no one can come to Christ without Divine enablement.
2) That all whom the Father draws to Christ will come to Christ.
3) Number 2 indicated by the statement that all whom the Father draws will be resurrected to life by Christ in the last day.

Verse 45 quotes Isaiah 54:13, which states that all God's children shall be taught by God, and goes on to say, "Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me."
In other words, no one who is enabled by God to understand the Gospel fails to come to Christ. Far from teaching universal enabling, this text teaches an effectual call that when extended, always brings the person who receives it to saving faith in Christ.

G. N. Barkman

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How does 2 Peter 3:9 fit in?

G. N. Barkman wrote:
Verse 45 quotes Isaiah 54:13, which states that all God's children shall be taught by God, and goes on to say, "Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me."
In other words, no one who is enabled by God to understand the Gospel fails to come to Christ. Far from teaching universal enabling, this text teaches an effectual call that when extended, always brings the person who receives it to saving faith in Christ.

Does God then only call certain people, or does He call everyone?

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II Peter 3:9

II Peter 3:9 may be one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering TOWARD US, not willing that any (of us) should perish, but that all (of us) should come to repentance."

Far from teaching God's universal desire that none should perish, this verse, when understood in the way most in keeping with normal language, teaches God's desire that none of the elect shall perish. God will not bring judgment upon the world until all the elect are brought to salvation. That explains the seeming delay for Christ's return.

"Not willing that any should perish" is commonsly assumed to apply to all mankind universally. A closer examination of the text indictates the opposite. Not only does the wording of II Peter 3:9 point toward particular, not universal redemption, but a careful examination of all the pronouns in II Peter 3 leading up to verse 9 reinforces the same point. Peter paints a stark contrast between "them" (scoffers, unbelievers), and "you" and "us", the dearly beloved of the Lord, to whom God makes special promises and exerts special effort.

G. N. Barkman

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OK, then...

I disagree with your interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9.

I did a quick perusal of my commentaries, and neither Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, nor the Tyndale NT Commentary, nor the Expositors' Bible Commentary interpret it that way. The ESV Study Bible, New Scofield Bible, and the Life Application Bible also disagree with your interpretation, although I will note that MacArthur's ESV Study Bible does support it.

As a matter of fact, Expositor's quotes Calvin himself on his passage as saying:

Quote:
Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost" (Epistle of Peter, p. 419).

Earl Nutz, writing in Biblical Viewpoint (November 2002, p. 25), also writes:

Quote:
Although man is a fallen and sinful creation and depraved, he yet bears an image which reflects the transitive attributes of God, and God expects voluntary responses to the extension of his grace callled thanksgiving or the return of grace..."Not willing or desiring that any should perish" (v. 9) implies a strong responsibility on man's part to decide about Christ. It is a decision made under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who convinces the sinner of the truth (John 16:8). Since the beginning of time, deciding for or against the Almighty and his will is a very real part of the responsibility of the image of God that every man bears. Man certainly does have a free will although he is finite and not free in the same way that God is free.

While you or others may take that interpretation, I do not think it is correct and hadn't even heard of that interpretation until a few weeks ago. I am taking comfort in the fact that I am not alone on this. Smile

Besides, there are other references to the 'whosoever', and 'all', and 'world' that I haven't pulled out yet.

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@JNoel: I'm sure brother

@JNoel:
I'm sure brother Barkman will answer for himself, however, it seems clear from Scripture that God does not call all people.

@JayC: Calvinist's have no argument with the whoseover's and all's of scripture. The point of disagreement comes in that only those who are regenerated will/do/can call. God does not reject anyone who calls, but He does not enable everyone to make that call. Some (the lost) are left to follow their own desires of rebellion and rejection toward God.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Larry wrote: Quote: @ Larry

Larry wrote:
Quote:
@ Larry - I don't know; that's not my problem to figure out.
I have no problem with this, but why isn't it okay for someone to say that God is absolutely sovereign and man is absolutely responsible, and it's not my problem to figure it out? You seemed to reject that type of mystery, but then invoke it here.

No, I don't reject the mystery of it; I reject what I see as a dodge by people who would affirm the man sinned because God decreed that he must sin and then refuse to admit that God must bear the responsibility for declaring that man sin. If you look at the http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-origins-of-evil-and-will-of-man ]Origin of Evil thread, I think you'll see that I (and others) are pretty clear on that.

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Loving and Calling

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
@JNoel:
I'm sure brother Barkman will answer for himself, however, it seems clear from Scripture that God does not call all people.

I see at least these options:

1) God loves and calls all
2) God loves all, but only calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
3) God only loves and calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
4) God loves all, but only calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge
5) God only loves and calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge

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JNoël wrote: Chip Van

JNoël wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
@JNoel:
I'm sure brother Barkman will answer for himself, however, it seems clear from Scripture that God does not call all people.

I see at least these options:

1) God loves and calls all
2) God loves all, but only calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
3) God only loves and calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
4) God loves all, but only calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge
5) God only loves and calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge

I started to reply and had to start over. I would not accept any of these choices as accurate because you have redefined foreknowledge. Biblically, the word is always indicative of a determinative action. Foreknowledge is not just that God knows but that He decides.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Repetitions

Jay C. wrote:
Larry wrote:
Quote:
@ Larry - I don't know; that's not my problem to figure out.
I have no problem with this, but why isn't it okay for someone to say that God is absolutely sovereign and man is absolutely responsible, and it's not my problem to figure it out? You seemed to reject that type of mystery, but then invoke it here.

No, I don't reject the mystery of it; I reject what I see as a dodge by people who would affirm the man sinned because God decreed that he must sin and then refuse to admit that God must bear the responsibility for declaring that man sin. If you look at the http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-origins-of-evil-and-will-of-man ]Origin of Evil thread, I think you'll see that I (and others) are pretty clear on that.


Again, I must repeat. When you take away libertarian freedom and all the assumptions that are derivative of it, and when you take away the fallen autonomous assumption, then these "necessary" implications of God being responsible are removed. Again, all that that thread showed is that if you beg the question of libertarian freedom and human autonomy, then you will have a problem with Biblical causality.

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The oft missed points and questions

JNoël wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
@JNoel:
I'm sure brother Barkman will answer for himself, however, it seems clear from Scripture that God does not call all people.

I see at least these options:

1) God loves and calls all
2) God loves all, but only calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
3) God only loves and calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
4) God loves all, but only calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge
5) God only loves and calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge


You left out the fact that "love" has different nuances; it is not flat-lined. It has contours: highs and lows; it is not static. Furthermore, a general call can coincide with a more limited effectual call. "Foreknowledge" is impossible to appeal to because it is a part of God's nature as self-sufficient. This just means that God's knowledge goes from Himself to creation; it does not go from creation to God.

Furthermore, even given the universality of "any" and "all men" in the previous passage. That only begins another question that people constantly ignore. Why then are those people not saved? If God is not willing that any person on the face of the earth at any time should be lost, then why is this thwarted? Well, I guess that God is not omnipotent then! Certainly, that is one rout that I would not recommend for answering this question. Universalism is another rout that I would not recommend; in this view God is not thwarted at all, for all will be saved! Well, now we have two bad possibilities down, and I will leave the other options open for those who prefer this rendering of the verse. So how do you answer the question. Why then aren't all people saved? If you say man resists, then we must ask "is not God omnipotent?" If none can thwart God's hand, now what?

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Comprehending the Incomprehensible

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
I would not accept any of these choices as accurate because you have redefined foreknowledge. Biblically, the word is always indicative of a determinative action. Foreknowledge is not just that God knows but that He decides.

Its my understanding that Foreknowledge, Election, and Predestination are not the same thing. Foreknowledge means he, in his omniscience, knows all things about his entire creation, past, present, and future. He elected specific ones to salvation. Those he elected are predestinated to be conformed to his image. Obviously these are majorly surface descriptions, but I had never heard anyone say that his foreknowledge and his decision are tied together like that. Probably just a subtle difference, but clearly enough for you to be able to shoot holes in my list. ;)

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Furthermore, even given the universality of "any" and "all men" in the previous passage. That only begins another question that people constantly ignore. Why then are those people not saved? If God is not willing that any person on the face of the earth at any time should be lost, then why is this thwarted? Well, I guess that God is not omnipotent then! Certainly, that is one rout that I would not recommend for answering this question. Universalism is another rout that I would not recommend; in this view God is not thwarted at all, for all will be saved! Well, now we have two bad possibilities down, and I will leave the other options open for those who prefer this rendering of the verse. So how do you answer the question. Why then aren't all people saved? If you say man resists, then we must ask "is not God omnipotent?" If none can thwart God's hand, now what?

And that's why I brought up the verse, because obviously universalism and non-omnipotence aren't viable options. I think it also may be the reason why it is not that simple to answer the question of whether or not "[salvation is a decision ]."

To me, the entire question of how God's act of changing the condition of a human being from being destined for eternal damnation to being destined for eternal life is yet another example of how we, in our humanity, cannot put God in a box. His mind is so far beyond ours that we'll never fully grasp the enormity of his majesty, wisdom, and beauty until we are in our glorified condition.

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Do you realize what you're saying?

Caleb S wrote:
Again, I must repeat. When you take away libertarian freedom and all the assumptions that are derivative of it, and when you take away the fallen autonomous assumption, then these "necessary" implications of God being responsible are removed. Again, all that that thread showed is that if you beg the question of libertarian freedom and human autonomy, then you will have a problem with Biblical causality.

So the solution to the freewill/sovereignty debate is to say that God didn't give man ~any~ free will? Yikes. If that's the case, then let me know why should anyone bother praying.

If you say that "God knows all things that must happen and they must occur because God declares it", then God is and must be the cause of sin - that is why I spent so much time talking about Adam in the Origin of Sin thread that I referenced above. I cannot and will not say that Adam sinned because it pleased God for him to sin. That's nonsense - God is too pure than to behold evil, and He does not tempt (nor bring about) temptations that man must yield to. At least Calvin, Boettner, and other Calvinistic thinkers will say 'it's a mystery' rather than go down the determinist road.

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straw man and half-truths

Jay C. wrote:
Caleb S wrote:
Again, I must repeat. When you take away libertarian freedom and all the assumptions that are derivative of it, and when you take away the fallen autonomous assumption, then these "necessary" implications of God being responsible are removed. Again, all that that thread showed is that if you beg the question of libertarian freedom and human autonomy, then you will have a problem with Biblical causality.

So the solution to the freewill/sovereignty debate is to say that God didn't give man ~any~ free will? Yikes. If that's the case, then let me know why should anyone bother praying.

If you say that "God knows all things that must happen and they must occur because God declares it", then God is and must be the cause of sin - that is why I spent so much time talking about Adam in the Origin of Sin thread that I referenced above. I cannot and will not say that Adam sinned because it pleased God for him to sin. That's nonsense - God is too pure than to behold evil, and He does not tempt (nor bring about) temptations that man must yield to. At least Calvin, Boettner, and other Calvinistic thinkers will say 'it's a mystery' rather than go down the determinist road.


"~any" free will" You should know better than that. Compatibilism is not hard determinism. The statement is not only not what I was advocating, but it is also a non-sequitur. It does not follow that just because libertarian freedom is eliminated, then one is advocating that God didn't give man ~any~ free will. This is true because there are other views of the will that are "compatible" with God's sovereignty over all things. And praying is necessary because the means are ordained just like the ends.

And then we are given half-truths. Yes, God is too pure than to behold evil; yet the God-man bore our sins upon the cross; and the Father's wrath was satisfied against the sin that He (beholding it) punished.

No, He does not tempt, but to say that He does not ordain it is to go beyond the text. There are different kinds of causality you know; to eliminate one is not to eliminate the other. Further, it is to go contrary to explicit texts like Acts 4 where God predestines the very sinful deeds done to Christ in the crucifixion.

Further we have Isaiah 10 stating, with Hiphil participles, that God used the king of Assyria like an instrument. And then the same text says that God was holding the king of Assyria responsible for the pride of his heart. This is utterly unintelligible with libertarian freedom in view, but with compatibilism the Biblical data is actually allowed to say what it says.

Fighting against Scripture with the axe of libertarian freedom and various autonomous assumptions is what I'm against; I'm not against compatibilist freedom or that freedom of the will espoused by Jonathan Edwards.

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Jay, perhaps I missed it, but

Jay, perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall an explanation regarding how you reconcile your view with Acts 2 and 4 where God is explicitly said to have predetermined ( decreed, ordained, etc.) the most heinous sin in human history.

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Quote: I don't reject the

Quote:
I don't reject the mystery of it; I reject what I see as a dodge by people who would affirm the man sinned because God decreed that he must sin and then refuse to admit that God must bear the responsibility for declaring that man sin.
Jay,

What you call a "dodge" is what has usually been called a mystery. I don't think it right to invoke it for yourself and deny it to others.

I affirm that God decrees all things because the Bible teaches it.
I affirm that man is absolutely responsible to God for his sinfulness because the Bible teaches it.

At some point, we just have to let go of our own questions and logic and just trust that God will draw and that God will enable and man will respond. We might all be better off to spend as much time doing the evangelist's work instead of trying to make all the pieces fit into our minds or logical systems.

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Greg-I don't have any

Greg-

I don't have any problems with God working in and through humanity's sinful choices to bring about His plan..that's the point of the book of Esther and Gal. 4:4 (for starters). I have said that God works in and through humanity to establish His Will and to specifically to offer up Jesus 'as a ransom for many'.

As I have said before - and will continue to say - I reject the idea that Pilate or the Jews had no option but to carry out the murder of Jesus. What I have said and will continue to say is that God knew before the Foundation of the World that Jesus would have to die for our sins, but that he used the free will choices of men to accomplish that goal.

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Caleb S wrote: JNoël

Caleb S wrote:
JNoël wrote:
Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
@JNoel:
I'm sure brother Barkman will answer for himself, however, it seems clear from Scripture that God does not call all people.

I see at least these options:

1) God loves and calls all
2) God loves all, but only calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
3) God only loves and calls some, regardless of his foreknowledge
4) God loves all, but only calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge
5) God only loves and calls those he knows will accept his call by his foreknowledge


You left out the fact that "love" has different nuances; it is not flat-lined. It has contours: highs and lows; it is not static. Furthermore, a general call can coincide with a more limited effectual call. "Foreknowledge" is impossible to appeal to because it is a part of God's nature as self-sufficient. This just means that God's knowledge goes from Himself to creation; it does not go from creation to God.

Furthermore, even given the universality of "any" and "all men" in the previous passage. That only begins another question that people constantly ignore. Why then are those people not saved? If God is not willing that any person on the face of the earth at any time should be lost, then why is this thwarted? Well, I guess that God is not omnipotent then! Certainly, that is one rout that I would not recommend for answering this question. Universalism is another rout that I would not recommend; in this view God is not thwarted at all, for all will be saved! Well, now we have two bad possibilities down, and I will leave the other options open for those who prefer this rendering of the verse. So how do you answer the question. Why then aren't all people saved? If you say man resists, then we must ask "is not God omnipotent?" If none can thwart God's hand, now what?


You're right Caleb. This was where I started initially, then I realized I couldn't even get that far with the use of foreknowledge. Definitions are so important, and so often overlooked in assumption.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Related note from a reformed type

Martin Luther wrote:
Faith is not that human notion and dream that some hold for faith . . . This is the reason that, when they hear the Gospel, they fall-to and make for themselves, by their own powers, an idea in their hearts, which says, "I believe." This they hold for true faith. But it is a human imagination and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, and so nothing comes of it, and no betterment follows it.

Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1)...

...Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers, who would be wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest of fools. Pray God to work faith in you; else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do.

from the Introduction to his commentary on Romans.

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God Laughs

Do you guys ever wonder if God is chuckling a little bit reading this thread? We all must look like toddlers arguing over toys to God as we scratch the surface of His will. I'm perfectly content to believe mysterious things, things that seem illogical can be true. Witness: the Trinity.

To me, the Calvinist tradition does the best job at joining the most scriptures the most adequately into a cohesively understood whole. That doesn't mean it deals with every question to logical satisfaction.

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Far afield

Well, we've gone pretty far afield in this thread.
Interesting, but the unresolved differences of centuries are not going to go away.

I think those inclined in an Arminian direction should concede one point though: students of the Bible are not doing wrong to systematize--to compare parts of revelation with other parts of revelation in order to understand the truth as thoroughly as possible. Both the Arminianistic and Augustinian approaches do this.

Why answering the question of how a God-hating sinner begins to be interested in trusting God and turning toward Him is not a question we should put in an "unsolved mysteries" file:
(1) Because, in reality, everybody answers the question, either taking a man-caused solution, a God caused solution, or inconsistently switching between the two. The latter is what really happens (in my experience) when people try to take a "cause undefined" position.

(2) We can't skip the sovereignty of God passages in our preaching and teaching. Preachers and teachers have to take some kind of position on what verses like Acts 16:14, John 6:44, Rom. 8:29-30, Eph.1:5, and many others, mean.

(3) We really shouldn't ask people to stop thinking. The logic of the situation requires that a sinner's turning from rebellion to trust must have some kind of cause, and the people we preach to and teach are going to surmise some kind of cause. Should we encourage them not to think about that?

(4) It's true that the secret things belong to the Lord, but when He seems to repeatedly take credit for what happens in sinners' hearts, who are we to declare that a secret?

(5) Because how we deal w/the causation question has implications for what we do in evangelism.

(6) Because God's glory is partly at stake. If God brings each repentant sinner to repentance, rescuing him from himself, He deserves the credit for that, and it's no small thing to withhold that honor, if it's due.

I'll concede that the problem of evil is a similar challenge. If God ultimately causes all things, how is He not responsible for sin? But while I grant that it's a similar challenge, it's dissimilar in some important ways. When God speaks about His relationship to moral evil/unrighteousness, it's always to affirm that everything in Him is contrary to it. When He speaks of sinners coming to faith, He doesn't distance Himself from that--in fact He seems often to put Himself right in the middle of the process.

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i agree

Jay C. wrote:
What I have said and will continue to say is that God knew before the Foundation of the World that Jesus would have to die for our sins, but that he used the free will choices of men to accomplish that goal.
I, as a monergist, can affirm this statement as it is perfectly consistent with Acts 2:23:

NKJV wrote:
Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death

Thus they (and they alone, NOT God) were guilty of crucifying Christ.

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Must it be?

Aaron Blumer wrote:

(1) Because, in reality, everybody answers the question, either taking a man-caused solution, a God caused solution, or inconsistently switching between the two. The latter is what really happens (in my experience) when people try to take a "cause undefined" position.

Does it have to be one of those two options? Is the answer the reason why the discussion has existed for hundreds of years, without resolution, by people a great deal more intelligent and learned than I? Isn't that enough to say the answer is, in fact, truly unsolved, and why people must settle on one or the other?

Can a new thread be started that would delve more into the pros and cons of each option, showing, for example, what happens to number (2) and number (5) in real life when a person decides to consistently settle on God-caused or man-caused?

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Jackpot

JohnBrian wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
What I have said and will continue to say is that God knew before the Foundation of the World that Jesus would have to die for our sins, but that he used the free will choices of men to accomplish that goal.
I, as a monergist, can affirm this statement as it is perfectly consistent with Acts 2:23:

NKJV wrote:
Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death

Thus they (and they alone, NOT God) were guilty of crucifying Christ.


JohnBrian-

Exactly. I should have thought of the Acts quote myself...thanks for putting that out!

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Jay C. wrote: Greg- I don't

Jay C. wrote:
Greg-

I don't have any problems with God working in and through humanity's sinful choices to bring about His plan..that's the point of the book of Esther and Gal. 4:4 (for starters). I have said that God works in and through humanity to establish His Will and to specifically to offer up Jesus 'as a ransom for many'.

As I have said before - and will continue to say - I reject the idea that Pilate or the Jews had no option but to carry out the murder of Jesus. What I have said and will continue to say is that God knew before the Foundation of the World that Jesus would have to die for our sins, but that he used the free will choices of men to accomplish that goal.


But Jay, it doesn't say God "knew" it would happen. It says God "determined" it would happen. He decided, determined, ordained, and planned that it would happen. And how exactly does God "use" the free will choices of men to accomplish that goal? God reacts to what men decide to do?

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John Calvin and II Peter 3:9

Sorry to drop out of the discussion, but it was a busy and blessed day of ministry yesterday.

Wow. A non-Calvinist quoting John Calvin for support! Surely this must be a sign of the soon coming of Christ. Smile I'll make a deal--I'll accept John Calvin's interpretation of II Peter 3:9, if you agree to accept Calvin's interpretation of other verses in future discussions. Deal? Smile

Although I firmly believe Calvin (and a good number of other "Calvinists") are wrong in their understanding of this text (for several textual and contextual reasons), I'll be happy to accept their understanding for the moment, and consider the implications:

1) This text could be understood to teach God's desire for the salvation of everyone.
2) Some who believe in unconditional election, particular redemption, and effectual calling interpret the text in this manner.
3) Therefore, this text, even if understood as customarily interpreted by Arminians, does disprove any of the docrines mentioned in # 2.

So to the question, "What about II Peter 3:9?" as a response to the clear teaching of John 6:44? Answer: What indeed? It does not and cannot contradict the teaching of Christ that no one can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father, and all those drawn by the Father will be raised to eternal life, that is, are effectually drawn with salvation as the result.

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Yes

Greg Long wrote:
But Jay, it doesn't say God "knew" it would happen. It says God "determined" it would happen. He decided, determined, ordained, and planned that it would happen...And how exactly does God "use" the free will choices of men to accomplish that goal?

Yes, I know that. I can't explain how it all works, but I can rest in Acts 2:23. My only thing to say at this point is that God knows a lot more than I do, so it's absolutely possible for God to do both, rather than declare the future and forcing all people to disobey in order to accomplish His goals.

Quote:
God reacts to what men decide to do?

2 Kings 20:1-20 wrote:

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”

And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?” And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.

Yes, I'd say that He does. How would you interpret this passage?

@ G.N. Barkman - No one was as shocked as I was to read the Calvin quote. That doesn't mean that I'm going to make any more promises about agreeing with Calvin for the future! Smile

Quote:
So to the question, "What about II Peter 3:9?" as a response to the clear teaching of John 6:44? Answer: What indeed? It does not and cannot contradict the teaching of Christ that no one can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father, and all those drawn by the Father will be raised to eternal life, that is, are effectually drawn with salvation as the result.

I didn't bring up the question of II Peter 3:9; I just brought that verse up as an objection to what I was seeing written by others. It's on them - not me - to synergize the position and the verse. I have no objections to either verse.

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Wow, in my absence this

Wow, in my absence this thread has grown some legs. Sorry I couldn't keep up but I was too busy kicking at death's door (which is probably not exactly true since I would have had to feel better to die! :Sp ).

However, the direction this thread has taken seems to be obsessing on an "angels on the head of a pin" type of scenario rather than on that which would have pragmatic application. As I have read these posts I don't think that anyone has espoused a salvific scenario that didn't conclude in a decision--repent, believe, trust, convert, commit, call, or whatever.

Yet there has been a lot of bandwidth used to espouse that salvation and a decision must be separated or else.

In an earlier post I wrote "Salvation...is no longer a point in time when a lost person comes under conviction of sin, recognizes via Holy Spirit illumination that Christ is the only solution for that sin, and calls out to Him in faith for salvation. Rather it has become a process of believing..."

A couple of questions on the pragmatic line:
(1) When hearing a persons testimony of salvation are we not generally listening for them to recount a point in time when they succumbed to conviction by calling on Christ for salvation? Without being judgmental, is there not something unsettling about the following testimony of Huey Harris?--"On April 6, 2001. Pastor Huey Harris was leaving The Rose Supper Club, Former "Top Flight"around 3:00AM, When God showed him three visions of the judgment day of the lost. The first vision he recall seeing young and old running around and God sent fire down from the sky.The second vision the earth was dark he also recall seeing dead bones and vapor from the smoke covering the earth. The third and final vision the earth was beautiful the water was pure. After this God encounter the Lord told him am taking you out of this hellish lifestyle to be a witness about my son. The next day he preached the gospel to his mother and father. He went throughout the whole city declaring that all people must repent and turn to Jesus...." (taken from this website: http://99.198.99.154/testimony/HueyHarris.htm)

(2) For those who still give invitations, are you not inviting/confronting one with a point of decision?

(3) On the occasion that we are approached with a "what must I do that I may inherit eternal life" (not unknown in Scripture) will we not reply Scripturally with an answer of a decisional nature, i.e., something akin to "repent, and believe the Gospel"?

Thus my continuing question, what is the purpose, ours or Piper's or whoever, in separating salvation from a point of decision with phrases such as "salvation is not a decision" when we all seem to agree that the end game is a point of decision? I fail to yet see where this is a pragmatic endeavor.

Lee

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"Salvation" Semantic Range?

Lee wrote:
Thus my continuing question, what is the purpose, ours or Piper's or whoever, in separating salvation from a point of decision with phrases such as "salvation is not a decision" when we all seem to agree that the end game is a point of decision? I fail to yet see where this is a pragmatic endeavor.

I must then again ask, "Does Scripture present a monolithic understanding of the term or concept 'salvation'? Are there different nuances and perspectives which end up defining the term?" I ask this because of the invitation comments preceding this quote end up allowing only one definition of "salvation". Are there multiple nuances of the term in Scripture? Does it have a semantic range? If it does have a range, then are we doing others and the topic injustice by only assuming one as if it were the whole?

Edited to add the following: Please take note of the opening post in answering this question. I ask this question because if there are multiple nuances, then some nuances are legitimately separating between the two while others it would be severely problematic to separate them.

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