Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 3

Read the series so far.

The Remonstrance of 1610, by followers of Jacobus Arminius, counters five points of doctrine that were understood to be Calvinistic teachings. The Remonstrance first denies the five Calvinistic tenets, and then positively asserts five articles of doctrine that present a completely different idea of God’s character.

The Remonstrance on Conditional Predestination

God has immutably decreed, from eternity, to save those men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ, and by the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end; and, on the other hand, to condemn the unbelievers and unconverted (John iii. 36).

Election and condemnation are thus conditioned by foreknowledge, and made dependent on the foreseen faith or unbelief of men. (Remonstrance, Article I)

My Response

The first phrase of Article I illustrates the primary challenge of the entire Calvinism/Arminianism debate: “God has immutably decreed, from eternity…” This isn’t necessarily a false statement, but it isn’t grounded exegetically. Upon what basis can we say when God made such determinations, other than before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4)? The lack of precision here lends opportunity for the further development of such constructs as the covenant of redemption and the lapsarian/superlapsarian/supralapsarian debate—none of which have any actual exegetical grounding. This particular statement goes just a little further than what is written. The basis of authority for the entire discussion has historically been theological constructs, rather than exegetically precise statements.

Further, the statement describes how saints “persevere in the obedience of faith” as a necessary prerequisite to salvation, making salvation a strictly future thing conditioned upon perseverance. But the obedience of faith in John 3:36 is not referring to obedience that comes after faith, but rather having faith as obedience. The only imperative for unbelievers is to believe in him (John 3:16), thus the obedience discussed in 3:36 is synonymous with belief, and not an additional condition. By the subtle misinterpretation of faith and obedience as two separate things, the Remonstrance makes salvation a conditional reward that can be lost at any point. The article also demonstrates no recognition of the fact that eternal life is a present tense possession of the believer (Jn 6:47), and thus cannot be conditioned on future actions. Simple exegesis resolves the problem, but in this article there is no attention given to exegesis by the Remonstrance.

The final statement on election and condemnation as conditioned by foreknowledge also goes beyond what is written. Ephesians 1:5 implies that the predestining is based solely on His will, whereas Arminian thought would understand the predestination of Romans 8:29 as an effect of the cause that is foreknowledge. Consequently, in Arminianism, God does not predestine from His strength, but only from His knowledge. Thus from an Arminian perspective, His sovereign control is limited.

The Remonstrance on Universal Atonement

Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, and his grace is extended to all. His atoning sacrifice is in and of itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, and is intended for all by God the Father. But its inherent sufficiency does not necessarily imply its actual efficiency. The grace of God may be resisted, and only those who accept it by faith are actually saved. He who is lost, is lost by his own guilt (John iii. 16; 1 John ii. 2).

The Arminians agree with the orthodox in holding the doctrine of a vicarious or expiatory atonement, in opposition to the Socinians; but they soften it down, and represent its direct effect to be to enable God, consistently with his justice and veracity, to enter into a new covenant with men, under which pardon is conveyed to all men on condition of repentance and faith. The immediate effect of Christ’s death was not the salvation, but only the salvability of sinners by the removal of the legal obstacles, and opening the door for pardon and reconciliation. They reject the doctrine of a limited atonement, which is connected with the supralapsarian view of predestination, but is disowned by moderate Calvinists, who differ from the Arminians in all other points. Calvin himself says that Christ died sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter pro electis. (Remonstrance, Article II)

My Response

The first statement here regarding the extent, sufficiency, and efficiency of the atonement is actually a very good one, exegetically defensible from the two passages cited (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 2:2). Jesus died for all a sufficient death, but just as the blood of the Passover lamb had to be applied in order to be efficient (or in order to actually save, Ex 12:7), so the blood of Jesus must be applied through belief in Him.

The Remonstrance on Saving Faith

Man in his fallen state is unable to accomplish any thing really and truly good, and therefore also unable to attain to saving faith, unless he be regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit (John xv. 5). (Remonstrance, Article III)

My Response

In order to justify this statement that regeneration precedes faith, the Remonstrance cites John 15:5, which has nothing whatsoever to do with saving faith—in fact, Jesus’ statement in that passage is addressed to eleven men who Jesus says already have saving faith (Jn 15:3). This is exegetically bizarre, and is no less logically odd. To illustrate, imagine a man walking on the side of a highway. He is pondering his sin and what God has done for him. In the Arminian model, in a moment in time he is regenerated, and a split second later—as a result of that regeneration—is about to have saving faith. But in that nano second (or whatever period of time) between the regeneration and the act of faith, the man is struck by a car and dies immediately. By definition, he would have been regenerated apart from faith. Regeneration preceding faith is not exegetically or logically plausible. Some degree of divine enablement allowing saving faith is clearly in view (e.g., Jn 6:44), but regeneration goes much too far.

The Remonstrance on Resistible Grace

Grace is the beginning, continuation, and end of our spiritual life, so that man can neither think nor do any good or resist sin without prevening, co-operating, and assisting grace. But as for the manner of co-operation, this grace is not irresistible, for many resist the Holy Ghost (Acts vii). (Remonstrance, Article IV)

My Response

This statement attempts to accommodate the false dichotomy that either God is sovereign and no one can resist Him at all, or He is not sovereignly in control, and because of that He can be resisted. The cited martyr of Stephen illustrates a resistance to God’s word, but gives no commentary supporting any lack of control on God’s part. Notice how this statement is logically grounded on the final statement of the first article—that God’s sovereignty is expressed as a result of foreknowledge, and not the other way around. Arminianism says He decrees it because He knows it. Calvinism says He knows it because He decrees it. But what does the Bible say? Ephesians 1:5 is clear regarding cause and effect, whereas Romans 8:29 is not considering cause and effect at all.

The Remonstrance on Uncertainty of Perseverance

Although grace is sufficient and abundant to preserve the faithful through all trials and temptations for life everlasting, it has not yet been proved from the Scriptures that grace, once given, can never be lost.

On this point the disciples of Arminius went further, and taught the possibility of a total and final fall of believers from grace. They appealed to such passages where believers are warned against this very danger, and to such examples as Solomon and Judas. They moreover denied, with the Roman Catholics, that any body can have a certainty of salvation except by special revelation.

These five points the Remonstrants declare to be in harmony with the Word of God, edifying and, as far as they go, sufficient for salvation. They protest against the charge of changing the Christian Reformed religion, and claim toleration and legal protection for their doctrine. (Remonstrance, Article V)

My Response

The first paragraph of this statement is patently false. John 6:47—at the moment of belief, we possess eternal life, which by definition, cannot be lost. 1 Peter 1:3-5 contains no less than eleven statements affirming the eternal security of the believer. Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those in Christ. How can those in Christ ever undergo the condemnation of being cast out if there is no condemnation for them? Romans 8:29-30 says that God’s foreknowledge and predestination is just as true of the believer as is being called, justified, and glorified—the outcome is certain. Romans 8:39 says that no created thing can separate us from the love of God. Am I a created thing? Is there anything I can do to separate myself from His love? Impossible. And the list goes on.

Further, the strange appeals to Solomon and Judas don’t support the Remonstrance’s argument here. We have no timeline of Solomon’s sin with respect to when he authored Ecclesiastes. However, it appears that Ecclesiastes was written as a final explanation of the journey he had taken, and that his conclusion affirms the fear of the Lord (Ecc 11:9, 12:1,12:13-14). Judas was a scoundrel (Jn 12:6) whose betrayal of Christ was consistent with his inner character, and yet who was remorseful after the betrayal (Mt 27:3). He didn’t fall from grace. If anything, we can hope he came to know the depths of God’s grace after his great sin. Further, Judas’ betrayal was apparently facilitated by some degree of possession of Judas by Satan (Lk 22:3, Jn 13:2). Should we understand that all who are under grace are prone to Satanic possession, and that we all must be on guard against such a danger? Does the Bible ever warn of such a thing? Of course not.

Finally, the concluding statement that the five points constructed by the Remonstrants are in harmony with the word of God is evidently not true when the five points are considered against the light of Scripture. Certainly there is some biblical truth interspersed throughout the five points (especially in the second point). But insofar as they rely on theological suppositions and constructs rather than exegetical ones, and conclude contrarily to Scripture in many assertions, I cannot agree with them.

These articles have been attempts at fairly representing and responding to the two pervasive theological positions of Calvinism and Arminianism. The next article attempts to positively assert the biblical perspective on these issues.

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Steven Thomas's picture

To illustrate, imagine a man walking on the side of a highway. He is pondering his sin and what God has done for him. In the Arminian model, in a moment in time he is regenerated, and a split second later—as a result of that regeneration—is about to have saving faith. But in that nano second (or whatever period of time) between the regeneration and the act of faith, the man is struck by a car and dies immediately. By definition, he would have been regenerated apart from faith.

I appreciate the thought that Dr. Cone is putting into this series, though I suspect my views differ from his on several points (pun intended).  This illustration does not help; it confuses the issues by misrepresenting the position in question.  No one ever uses the statement, "regeneration precedes faith," to describe a chronological sequence.  Rather, it means that there is an inseparable relationship between new life and faith and in this relationship the regenerating work of God takes logical priority.  Mark Snoeberger ably (and exegetically) defended this position here.  Alternative views also posit a work of God--usually prevenient grace.  But in my opinion, it is exegetically indefensible and leaves us with no way to explain the difference between the believer and unbeliever except by the ability of the former to recognize a good deal when he sees it. 

Steven Thomas

TylerR's picture

Editor

Thank you very much for the link to this article. It is extremely helpful. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

AndrewSuttles's picture

Steven Thomas wrote:

...in a moment in time he is regenerated, and a split second later—as a result of that regeneration—is about to have saving faith. But in that nano second (or whatever period of time) between the regeneration and the act of faith, the man is struck by a car and dies immediately. By definition, he would have been regenerated apart from faith.

No one ever uses the statement, "regeneration precedes faith," to describe a chronological sequence. 

Right!

If we use this illustration and flip it, then it would be possible for a man to have faith and be killed before he could be regenerated!  Thus nullifying what the Scriptures say about faith and salvation.  I think these matters deserve more serious treatment than these types of silly illustrations...

AndrewSuttles's picture

Quote:

Upon what basis can we say when God made such determinations, other than before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4)?

I don't see anything in the quote above about "when" God decreed to elect, except that it was before time?  Unless you believe that God lives within time, that would make the decree in eternity past.  I have no idea what the author is trying to argue here.

Quote:

The lack of precision here lends opportunity for the further development of such constructs as the covenant of redemption and the lapsarian/superlapsarian/supralapsarian debate—none of which have any actual exegetical grounding.

The arguments regarding Federalism and whether God has one plan of salvation from Adam to the return of Christ most certainly is based on Scriptures!  You may not agree with the argument, but you should debate them on their merits instead of making broad statements such as these.  This is silly foolishness in my opinion and has nothing to do with the statement the Arminians made above.

AndrewSuttles's picture

Quote:

In order to justify this statement that regeneration precedes faith, the Remonstrance cites John 15:5, which has nothing whatsoever to do with saving faith—in fact, Jesus’ statement in that passage is addressed to eleven men who Jesus says already have saving faith...

John 15:5-6

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

John 15:5 has nothing to do with saving faith?  John 15:6 says that those not abiding in Christ are cast into the fire?  Would this not be a contrast between those that have saving faith and those that do not???

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree with you on that one. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

Steven Thomas wrote:

I appreciate the thought that Dr. Cone is putting into this series, though I suspect my views differ from his on several points (pun intended).  This illustration does not help; it confuses the issues by misrepresenting the position in question.  No one ever uses the statement, "regeneration precedes faith," to describe a chronological sequence.  

As usual, we discover in these debates that "precede" doesn't actually mean "precede," "world" doesn't mean "world", "all" doesn't mean "all", and so on.

And those who tell us this are mystified when we think their scholarship is suspect.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

pvawter's picture

AndrewSuttles wrote:

Quote:

In order to justify this statement that regeneration precedes faith, the Remonstrance cites John 15:5, which has nothing whatsoever to do with saving faith—in fact, Jesus’ statement in that passage is addressed to eleven men who Jesus says already have saving faith...

John 15:5-6

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

John 15:5 has nothing to do with saving faith?  John 15:6 says that those not abiding in Christ are cast into the fire?  Would this not be a contrast between those that have saving faith and those that do not???


Are you suggesting that one who is in Christ can somehow be removed and condemned? Jesus is not speaking of salvation at all, but of abundance through obedience and loss through chastening.

Steven Thomas's picture

As usual, we discover in these debates that "precede" doesn't actually mean "precede," "world" doesn't mean "world", "all" doesn't mean "all", and so on.

And those who tell us this are mystified when we think their scholarship is suspect.

Voltaire didn't get many things right, but he was correct when he challenged others with the well-known declaration, "If you want to converse with me, define your terms." Words never have any specific, unambiguous meaning apart from context.  The context in which "regeneration precedes faith" occurs is an ongoing theological discussion in which the  meaning of this phrase has been repeatedly and clearly defined.  Respectfully, only shoddy scholarship would ignore the established definition.  Someone might disagree with the offered definition and its implications, but it is illegitimate and fallacious to substitute another definition and use that as the basis for an argument.

Steven Thomas

TylerR's picture

Editor

Read the article that Steven linked to. It is a very good discussion of regeneration and faith. This issue deserves serious consideration from folks on both sides, not charges of "word games."  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

Steven Thomas wrote:

Voltaire didn't get many things right, but he was correct when he challenged others with the well-known declaration, "If you want to converse with me, define your terms." Words never have any specific, unambiguous meaning apart from context.  The context in which "regeneration precedes faith" occurs is an ongoing theological discussion in which the  meaning of this phrase has been repeatedly and clearly defined.  Respectfully, only shoddy scholarship would ignore the established definition.  Someone might disagree with the offered definition and its implications, but it is illegitimate and fallacious to substitute another definition and use that as the basis for an argument.

Maybe so, but the logic of precedence only works if something actually precedes something else. If it is an imaginary precedence, it is a moot point, and in fact it doesn't precede the other at all.

Also, please note that many Calvinists don't argue for the precedence of regeneration. Only a certain set does.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Long's picture

In a manner similar to my understanding of limited atonement, although I understand the logic behind such a view, I cannot find clear Scriptural support for the view that regeneration logically precedes faith in the ordo salutis. It seems to me that the Bible says that when a person repents of their sin and places their faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, they are saved/justified/born again on the basis of that faith (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8-9). And yet I also affirm from Ephesians 2:8-9 that all of salvation, including the faith to believe, is a gift from God. So I believe God gives His elect the faith to believe, and in turn regenerates them because of that faith.

So at the moment of salvation, the sinner is regenerated (John 3:3). Regeneration is the impartation of spiritual life by the Holy Spirit to one who is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), resulting in a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 1:23).

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Paul Henebury's picture

I've avoided this thread because I am not interested in getting drawn.  I found Snoeberger's article (when it came out) impressive and frustrating at the same time.  But let me ask a question: "How can God justify someone and give them what only a justified person can have (righteousness), until they have done what His justice demands they do to be justified?"  See e.g., the exemplar, Abraham in Romans 4:3, 5, 9, 11, 16  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

Is that an answer to the question I asked?  Perhaps I wasn't clear?  As regeneration equates to the new birth of John 3, how can God justify a person so as to qualify them to be regenerated?

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

JohnBrian's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

Is that an answer to the question I asked?  Perhaps I wasn't clear?  As regeneration equates to the new birth of John 3, how can God justify a person so as to qualify them to be regenerated?

It's the link to a previous discussion on the subject.

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Steven Thomas's picture

But let me ask a question: "How can God justify someone and give them what only a justified person can have (righteousness), until they have done what His justice demands they do to be justified?"

As regeneration equates to the new birth of John 3, how can God justify a person so as to qualify them to be regenerated?

Hello, Paul.  For what it is worth, here is my take on this question (and its restatement). I think the relationship between faith and justification is a different topic.  Calvinists and Arminians alike place faith before justification in their respective formulations of the ordo salutis.  And justification cannot "qualify a person to be regenerated;" it must follow regeneration. Justification means that God declares the one who believes to have right standing before Him--an impossible condition for the spiritually dead. 

As an aside, I would not say that God gives righteousness; He declares righteous. Nor would I say that God's justice demands faith.  That seems to cast faith in the role of a work.  While God certainly requires faith, he also grants if by grace (Eph 2:8-9, Phil 1:29).

 

Steven Thomas

Paul Henebury's picture

Thanks Steven,

Full disclosure, I have some familiarity with these issues.  By 'give righteousness' I had in mind Christ's imputed righteousness which we have in union with Him (2 Cor. 5:21).  It is called a gift in Rom. 5:17.  As the passages in Rom. 4 show, righteousness does not come to us unless we believe.  As you note, righteousness is a judicial decision of God.  If being born-again equals regeneration (see John Murray, Redemption, Accomplished & Applied, 103), then union with Christ must follow: either one is in Adam or Christ.  But then the question comes up, 'How can God logically join a person to Christ before He has declared them righteous?'  Would that not be joining an unrighteous sinner to Christ?  Plus, if God had already saved the sinner by regenerating him, what would be the logic of saving faith?  

Wouldn't this be akin to a judge telling the bailiff (or whoever) to release the prisoner before pronouncing him innocent?  If a sinner is born again before believing (even logically), he has de facto been released from guilt before being declared righteous has he not?

What I am getting at here is simply to point out that the logic of regeneration - AS the new birth - before faith is not as good as it appears.  In Scripture and jurisprudence no one is rightly freed until they have been declared judicially 'innocent.'  The NT is surely of one voice that righteousness comes by faith, so the logic above would point to God having to declare a sinner righteous before freeing him from Adam and joining him to Christ.

I'm playing Devil's Advocate here, which I know can be annoying, but we must go carefully with the use of logic unless we can back it up clearly with Scripture.

Two quick examples, if I may: 

1. "Justification means that God declares the one who believes to have right standing before Him--an impossible condition for the spiritually dead." 

- Why? unless you have a certain assumption about what spiritual death means?  (Think of Cornelius in Acts 10).  I'm not here saying you're wrong.  i am wondering if your logic is driven more by certain definitions or by texts.  

2. "Nor would I say that God's justice demands faith.  That seems to cast faith in the role of a work." 

- Well, isn't justification all about God's justice?  And doesn't God demand faith in order to declare us 'free' or 'right'?  As for faith = work, Jn 6:29 calls believing on Jesus a work.  Perhaps there is a different meaning here?  Calvin defined faith as more of a receptacle.  

I'm having a bit of fun, but I hope you see my underlying point.

 

God bless,

 

Paul H 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

JohnBrian's picture

ChristopherCone wrote:
The Remonstrance of 1610, by followers of Jacobus Arminius, counters five points of doctrine that were understood to be Calvinistic teachings. The Remonstrance first denies the five Calvinistic tenets, and then positively asserts five articles of doctrine that present a completely different idea of God’s character.

This statement is not quite accurate. The Remonstrance in the form of 5 articles was opposed to the 1561 Belgic Confession which consisted of 37 articles, not 5 tenets.  Those 5 articles were then responded to at the Synod of Dordt in the form of 4 main points of doctrine (combining the Remonstrance's 3rd and 4th into a single point).

It appears that the author has the order backwards.

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Ed Vasicek's picture

I am not an Arminian; I am a strong believer in sovereign grace.  However, the Arminia position,  as quoted above, does often have exegetical support. True, the decrees fall in the category of artificial constructs:

The basis of authority for the entire discussion has historically been theological constructs, rather than exegetically precise statements.

But when it comes to perseverance as a requirement for salvation, even Calvinists believe in it.  There are many verses that suggest endurance is the hallmark of true faith, and there are many verses that suggest salvation is not only present but future.  All quotes ESV.

Mark 13:13

And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

John 6:27

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Romans 2:7

 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

Notice "will" is a future gift.

Indeed, the famous Hebrews 6 chapter suggests endurance in the faith distinguishes the heirs to eternal life from others.  I John 2:19 suggests that it is through endurance in the faith that true believers are revealed (wheat) in contrast to false ones (tares):

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

 

The same is true with many of the other points.  There IS exegetical evidence for the points of Arminius, just as there is exegetical evidence of something like 4 out of the 5 points of Calvinism.  The issue is truth verses whole truth and how these truths are harmonized.  It is possible to embrace a Sovereign Grace approach and accept a paradox, but the Arminian cannot do so the same but must exegetically stretch to eliminate Sovereign Grace.

I can say God is sovereign and chooses people -- not based on their merit but because he chose to regenerate them -- but people are offered salvation freely and whoever wants to come may.  Yet, I would add, no one can come unless brought to spiritual life first by God's sovereign choice, and this is not based on merit or foreseen response.  The Arminian can say that whoever wants to come may, but he cannot accept that only those chosen by God apart from merit or foreseen response will come.

The Over-doing of Calvinism?

Getting excited about God's Word is normally a good thing, but I have seen a number (not most) of Calvinists TOO excited, IMO, about their Calvinism.  As a result, they do not see the validity of Arminian position as truth but not whole truth, and write it off completely.  Whenever we get too excited about our theology to the point that we stop feeding upon all the truths of Scriptures,  we are, in a sense, putting our theology above God's Word.  This might be a low-level sort of idolatry, although the word might be too strong. Perhaps imbalance is better.  

People do the same thing with their particular church, music/worship style, a person, movement, or something else that creates an aura or dignity, etc. -- things that often have a redeeming element, but can be inflated to the extreme. Then they try to impose that whatever on our churches, our churches don't want to imitate their icons/styles, and conflict results.  This is not unique to Calvinism or the Reformed resurgence -- we see it everywhere.  

Still, Christopher, you have done a good job calling us to truly exegetical theology.  To me -- despite all the historical baggage -- that is what fundamentalism SHOULD be about.  I don't know that the truly reformed  (as defined by Aaron Blumer here) embrace such a Biblical purism.  They are what they claim: Reformed (Catholicism).  The attempt at Biblical purism -- as messed up as it was -- was more an anabaptist mentality.  The Plymouth Brethren are notable in this regard.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Steven Thomas's picture

Paul, I’m sorry that I did not initially recognize that you were advocating for the devil.  :)  It took some time to offer this post because my day job got in the way.

My initial comment in this thread took exception to Dr. Cone’s illustration which I consider to be a straw man argument.  That remains my chief concern.  From there, things quickly went down a different path—so I understand your comment about getting “drawn in.”

You indicated that union with Christ must follow regeneration.  That depends on what one means by “union with Christ.”  There is no uniform thought on that.  A common mistake involves defining union with Christ based every passage in which the expression “in Christ” occurs.  But closer examination reveals that "in Christ" can carry different meanings depending on context.  Personally I do place union with Christ after regeneration in the ordo salutis but for reasons other than you have expressed.  I suspect that our definition would differ.  It seems clear that you have in mind the believers’ connection with Christ as described in Romans 5.  I think that Romans 5 simply describes a representative relationship.  This representative role is rooted in God’s atemporal election (Eph 1:4).  Therefore, I would argue, that this connection has to do with Christ’s ordained substitutionary obedience (both active and passive) as the new Adam and thus provides the foundation for both regeneration and justification. 

As for the logic of saving faith, I believe faith is the necessary evidence of regeneration.  I am driven to that conclusion by at least three facts:  1) spiritual death is a complex of attributes that requires resurrection power (Eph 2:1-3, cf. 1:18-20), 2) the natural man is incapable of initiating spiritual change (John 1:12-13; 1 Cor 2:14; Rom 8:7-8), and 3) repentant faith is a gift (Eph 2:8; Phil 1:29).  And in this discussion, I would not say that God “saved the sinner by regenerating him,” (thus hypothetically rendering justification unnecessary).  He saves the sinner via the complex of elements involved in the ordo, beginning with election and ending with glorification. 

I’ll stop with that.

Steven Thomas

Ron Bean's picture

Where does the ability to exercise saving faith come from?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

AndrewSuttles's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Still, Christopher, you have done a good job calling us to truly exegetical theology.

?

Quote:

 To me -- despite all the historical baggage -- that is what fundamentalism SHOULD be about.  I don't know that the truly reformed  (as defined by Aaron Blumer here) embrace such a Biblical purism.  They are what they claim: Reformed (Catholicism).  The attempt at Biblical purism -- as messed up as it was -- was more an anabaptist mentality.  The Plymouth Brethren are notable in this regard.

So you're not a Calvinist or an Arminian, you're a Landmarkist?   Smile

 

Greg Long's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Where does the ability to exercise saving faith come from?

This is an example where the binary distinction doesn't always work. I'm not convinced of the concept of Limited Atonement or that regeneration precedes faith, yet I believe that saving faith is a gift of God. So "the ability to exercise saving faith" comes from God. This is sometimes the frustration with full-blown Calvinists--once they have their system locked into place they can't conceive of any other options that do not fit into the system.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Ed Vasicek's picture

Greg said:

This is sometimes the frustration with full-blown Calvinists--once they have their system locked into place they can't conceive of any other options that do not fit into the system.

 

I so much agree with this.  Even though I believe that regeneration causes faith and therefore comes first, I can see the possibility that there might be a missing element I do not understand.  It is that "knowing that we do not know it all" attitude of humility that we all need to work at.  I try to remind myself of this, but often fail to do so.  We don't know what we don't know.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul Henebury's picture

Thanks for a thoughtful response.  My rather playful comment was to provoke thought about the uses of deductive logic in theological formulation.  A number of comments were quite self-assured regarding the logic of their position.  I just wished to inject a little counter-example for balance.  You were the only one who bothered to respond.

John V. Fesko, in his book on Justification has a chapter in which he cites A.A. Hodge and R. Gaffin who bring up the issue of legal process to which I alluded. His answer is to say that union with Christ in Reformed thought is the platform or basis for the ordo itself.  In his next chapter he pads this out, but I think he does not really get to the core of the problem.  The verses you quote are well known ones of course.

Anyhow, thanks for being a good sport.  Definitions are always key in this sort of discussion.

 

God bless,

 

Paul

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

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