Is Salvation a Decision?

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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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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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Since 4/27/11 01:37:29
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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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Since 6/5/09 14:45:31
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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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Since 5/6/09 20:45:47
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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Since 6/2/09 13:04:13
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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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Since 1/8/10 15:02:40
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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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Since 5/6/09 20:45:47
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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Since 6/5/09 14:45:31
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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?

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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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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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

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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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.

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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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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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?

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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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!

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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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?

------------------------------
Pastor of Adult Ministries

Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Religion
Liberty University Online

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Since 1/8/10 15:02:40
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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.

G. N. Barkman

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Since 5/6/09 20:45:47
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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.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Since 6/14/11 21:09:35
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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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Since 6/5/09 14:45:31
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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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Since 6/2/09 13:04:13
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Quote: Thus my continuing

Quote:
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 am a bit confused. You just said, "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." And then you ask what is the purpose of separating salvation from a point of decision?

So you seem to be asking what the purpose is of something that no one is doing. Am I missing something here?

Quote:
Yet there has been a lot of bandwidth used to espouse that salvation and a decision must be separated or else.
This too is a strange statement in that it follows directly on your statement that no is doing this.

Is it possible, as I suggested above, that you have created a strawman in of your attempt to cast it as "Calvinism vs. decisionalism" when, as you say, no one is espousing that?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Since 6/4/09 13:10:12
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Lee wrote: A couple of

Lee wrote:
A couple of questions on the pragmatic line:
(2) For those who still give invitations, are you not inviting/confronting one with a point of decision?

Lee,

This is a very astute question. It is the very reason many Calvinists do not give invitations, and why most others make the invitation a challenge more than some sort of "alter call." Spurgeon is an prime example of this fact.

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

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Since 6/1/09 19:00:00
7432 posts
"invitations"

Hitting all the hot ones I guess.
But it is definitely related... salvation, decisions, invitations.

Anyway, as with so many other parts of this set of issues, getting clear what people mean by their terms is half the battle... or maybe 4/5 of the battle.

Invitation...
1. An event that follows a sermon and includes these features: several verses of a "moving" song. Repeated urging of people to "come forward and..." Often going on for some time until the preacher is satisfied that he either has gotten the response he wanted or is not going to get the response he wanted.
2. What happens when you urge hearers to believe the gospel.

Of course, we could spin off a few other definitions. But I'll start with two. Should be obvious right away that def.1 normally incudes def.2 but the second kind of "invitation" is...
* Common in Scripture
* Can be included in the sermon itself more than once
But def.1 "invitations" are not found in Scripture and are distinct from preaching.

Do "Calvinists" do invitations? Well, quite a few I know of do... in the second sense rather than the first.

What does any of this have to do with "is salvation a decision" or with "decisionism"?
Well, the def.1 type of invitation more often than not has a particular theology behind it that includes the stated or unstated conviction that it's human persuasiveness that moves a rebellious sinner to become a sincere seeker... and/or the idea that if I preach and don't push hard enough for a response, then the lack of response could be my fault for not pressing enough (this is really an offshoot of the theological pt. already mentioned).

Gotta run, but just want to point out that it's quite possible to be a hard line five pointer and still do invitations in the def.1 style (after all the Westminster Confession acknowledges that God uses secondary causes and the WC is as Reformed as you can get).
It just hasn't been a tradition among those of Reformed soteriology... and there is definitely less inclination to see the need for that if you believe the gospel (vs. our rhetorical prowess or invitational expertise) is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1.16).

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Since 1/8/10 15:02:40
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Gospel Invitations

Aaron,

Thank you for distinguishing between an invitation and an altar call. Are "invitations" in the Bible? Yes. For example, Jesus said, "Come unto me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." As you pointed out, this kind of invitation is really part of the sermon.

Are altar call style invitations in the Bible? No. Not once, not anywhere. Neither Jesus, nor the Apostles, nor anyone is recorded asking someone to raise a hand, walk an aisle, come forward, kneel at an altar, go to an inquiry room, talk to a personal wokrer, or to repeat a prayer after me.

All the Calvinists that I know give invitations. Some with unusual ferver. Few of the Calvinists I know give altar calls. As Aaron pointed out, the disposition to give or not give altar calls lies largely with one's theological perspective. One's understanding of the gospel, and how men are saved colors how you evaluate the need or desirability for altar calls. Since you can't find one in the Bible anywhere, what does that suggest about the theological understanding of Christ and the Apostles? Just wondering. Smile

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Since 6/1/09 19:00:00
7432 posts
Silence

I'll switch sides a little just for fun ;)
I don't think the absence of the walk-the-aisle type invitation in the NT argues either way. I mean, if we saw a lot of them in Acts or a command to use them in the epistles, that would settle the question, but the absence of reference doesn't say a whole lot one way or the other, seems to me.
"Do you do altar calls?" is a less important question than "If you do have them, why?" (And if not, why not?)

(I don't do them... I have two reasons, one of which is not very noble: I just really stink at that--and a really pathetic altar call is just, well, really pathetic. The other is that I generally aim to do clear "inviting" in the message itself in reference to the text. I don't fault anybody for being really "urgent" in their invitations, but I think "really clear" is the more important quality... often enough, I'm up to my own standards on that scale either, though.
The upside: when somebody does make a decision, I never wonder if it's just because I dazzled them into it!)

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Since 1/8/10 15:02:40
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Switching Sides

But...if your comment earlier was correct, that the need for them is driven by a more Arminian understanding of the Gospel, their absence in Scripture must be considered significant.

In other words, if they are viewed as an important, even necessary extension to a successful presentation of the Gospel, that has huge implications for the way we understand the Gospel.

Not everything that is absent from Scripture has such major implications. Sunday Schools are absent from Scripture, but their addition to the life of the church does not impact the way we view the Gospel. But altar calls do. They reflect a Gospel perspective on the part of the evangelist that is weak at best, especially when they are considered essential, as is so often the case. And, they frequently confuse the sinner about what it means to receive Christ. "I came to Christ in 1997 at a 'Revival' meeting. I came forward to receive Christ. Therefore, I must have received Christ." Maybe. Maybe not. What does it mean to receive Christ?

G. N. Barkman

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Since 5/6/09 20:45:47
3666 posts
Hang on

Quote:
Not everything that is absent from Scripture has such major implications. Sunday Schools are absent from Scripture, but their addition to the life of the church does not impact the way we view the Gospel. But altar calls do. They reflect a Gospel perspective on the part of the evangelist that is weak at best, especially when they are considered essential, as is so often the case.

Wait - how do we quantify this statement? That's a pretty sweeping generalization.

For the record, I have no interest in altar calls myself.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Quantifying that Statement

Jay,

If I understood what you mean by that comment, I would endeavor to respond to it. However, it does cause me to reconsider and add another reason many give altar calls, namely human tradition. If one ministers in a context where altar calls are considered standard fare, it may be difficult to stop giving them, even if the preacher has personal reservations. In that case, he may work hard at making them as "Scriptural" as possible, no small task for something that is not found in Scripture.

But if the preacher's gospel understanding is sound, he may do more to explain the gospel clearly (as opposed to merely making emotional appeals), and be clear that coming forward does not equate to coming to Christ. In this case, he will doubtless reduce the numbers of those who respond, but will assure his conscience that he has not mislead people who need Christ. What they do not need is a decision they can rest upon in the future as their assurance of salvation. "I know I'm saved because I walked the aisle at Community Baptist Church in 2007."

The preacher may be between a rock and a hard place. He doesn't want to create an uproar in his church by dropping a tradition many consider essential, nor does he want to mislead people regarding the gospel. Its a balancing act that some feel pressured to maintain.

The problem is in equating the sinner's doing something physical (raise a hand, walk an aisle, etc.) with what is totally a spiritual activity, the soul's repentant act of casting itself upon Christ alone. Just listen to the testimonies that flow from many raised in "altar call" churches. "I was saved when I was seven when I went forward in VBS, etc." Many times, there is not even a mention of sin or Christ. What we need to hear is, "As I listened to God's Word, I realized that I was a sinner deserving of God's condemnation. The Gospel became good news to me, and I cast myself upon Christ and His finished work upon the cross as my only hope of salvation."

Why is this so rare? At least in part, because we have for so long equated coming to Christ with some physical activity. The testimonies we hear are a reflection of what people have understood us to say. "Walk this aisle, and you will be saved."

G. N. Barkman

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