A good friend who is also a pastor wrote to me recently about the nature of election. He wondered if it were possible for Christians to be chosen in Christ—that is, for Christians not to be elected individually, but only as a corporate entity. The idea was that Christ is the chosen one and if a person is “in Christ,” then he’s chosen too. This is known as corporate election.

Here are some thoughts on the issue of corporate election.

Dear Pastor _______,

Preliminarily, I should address an antecedent issue. Although I will express my opinion, you of course have to come to your own conclusions. Having a good conscience about the text doesn’t require agreement with others; it requires being faithful to pursue truth at all costs to the best of your abilities. To be sure, you want to seek the counsel and input of various experts. But when the day is done, you have to stand before God and tell him how you see your views as in harmony with Holy Writ. In other words, I never want you to feel any kind of intimidation or pressure from me or anyone else about your handling of the text. I do of course want you to feel a great duty (as you always have) to the Lord in the handling of his word. At bottom, all of us have to give an account of ourselves to the Lord, and any human loyalties will have no standing before him.

Now, on to the issue!

First, allow me to clarify the issue: By corporate election I suppose you mean that only those who will be in Christ are chosen and that God does not specifically choose individuals but only chooses the sphere (“in Christ”) in which the elective purposes of God can take place. Thus, if one embraces Christ he is chosen.

If that is what you mean by corporate election, then I would reject it. Here are the reasons why:

First, the authors you cited seemed to make a conceptual-lexical equation (i.e., if the word “elect” was used, only groups were in view; ergo, election is only corporate). That view has been regarded by linguists and biblical scholars as linguistically naïve. James Barr in his Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford, 1961) makes a lengthy and devastating critique of Kittel’s ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament for its numerous linguistic fallacies. Among them is this conceptual-lexical equation. Allow me to unpack this a bit more: conceptual-lexical equation means that one does not find the concept unless he sees the words. That seems to be an underlying assumption in the authors you cited. However, where else do we argue this? Would we not say that the concept of fellowship occurs everywhere in the New Testament? Yet the word κοινωνια is found only twenty times. Or consider the deity of Christ: If we could only speak of Christ’s deity in passages where he is explicitly called “God,” then we are shut up to no more than about half a dozen texts. Yet the New Testament wreaks of the deity of Christ—via his actions, attributes that are ascribed to him, Old Testament quotations made of him, implicit and explicit statements made about him. Hence, our first question needs to be: Do we see the concept of election as a corporate notion or an individual one?

Second, I think that there may be a false antithesis between corporate and individual election. Proof that God elects corporately is not proof that he does not elect individually (any more than proof that all are called sinners in Rom 3:23 is a denial that individuals are sinners). I embrace corporate election as well as individual election.  As Douglas Moo argues in his commentary on Romans (pp. 551-52),

… to call Rom. 9-11 the climax or center of the letter is going too far. Such an evaluation often arises from a desire to minimize the importance of the individual’s relationship to God in chaps. 1-8. But the individual’s standing before God is the center of Paul’s gospel.… Individual and corporate perspectives are intertwined in Paul.

Evidence for this can be seen in Romans 9 itself: the examples that Paul uses to show the meaning of election are individuals: Pharaoh, Jacob and Esau, etc. Yet, these very examples—these very individuals—also represent corporate groups. If only corporate election were true, Paul could not have written Romans 9 the way he did.

Third, going back to the conceptual-lexical equation for a moment: let’s look at the evidence.

Mark 13:20—“but for the sake of the elect whom he chose he has cut short those days.” If we take only a corporate view of election, this would mean “but for the sake of all humanity he has cut short those days.” That hardly makes any sense in the passage; further, election is doubly emphasized: the elect whom he chose. It would be hard to make any clearer the idea that election is of individuals.

Luke 6:13; John 6:70—Jesus chose twelve of his disciples out of a larger pool. True, he chose more than one; but this also was of particular individuals. Jesus named them individually, indicating that his choice of them was individual. This election was not toward salvation, as we see in John 6:70.[1] But this election was entirely initiated by Jesus (“you did not choose me, but I chose you”). Initiation and selection are the prerogatives of the Lord. Corporate election makes absolutely no sense in this context; and further, the elective purposes and methods of God incarnate are the same, whether it is of his apostles for service or of sinners for salvation.

Luke 9:35—“This is my Son, my Chosen One.” Certainly election of Christ is both individual and corporate: Christ as the elect of God (see also at John 1:34 the textual variant that is most likely original, and is the text reading of the NET Bible) is the vehicle through whom God effects his elective purposes today. That is, God chooses those who would be saved, but he also chooses the means of that salvation: it is in Christ (see also Eph 1:4).

John 15:16—“You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Again, we see that election is done by the initiative of God. Further, those who are chosen become what they are chosen for (in this case, apostles). A view of corporate election that allows a large pool of applicants to be “chosen” then permits a self-selection to narrow the candidates seems to ignore both God’s initiative and the efficacy of God’s choice: all those who are chosen become what they are chosen for.

John 15:19—“I chose you out of the world.” The same theme is repeated: election may have many individuals in view, but the initiative and efficacy belong to the Lord.

Acts 1:2—same idea as above.

Acts 1:24—This text reveals a choice of one individual as opposed to another. The apostles vote on which of two candidates they had put in the pool would fill Judas’ spot. But even their choice is dictated by the mandate of heaven: “Show us which one you have chosen.”

Acts 15:7—Peter notes that God had selected him to bring the good news to the Gentiles. Again, though this is not election to salvation, it is election that is initiated by God and effected by God (for, as you recall, Peter was quite resistant to the idea).

Thus, election is seen to be initiated by God and effected by God. Those who are chosen—whether individuals or groups—become what they are chosen for. Corporate election simply ignores this consistent biblical emphasis.

Fourth, when we look at the broader issue and involve words other than from the ἐκλέγ- — word-group, we see that the concept of God’s initiation and efficacy is very clear. For example, in Acts 13:48 we read that “as many as had been appointed for eternal life believed.” This is a group within the group that heard the message. The passive pluperfect periphrastic ἦσαν τεταγμένοι indicates both that the initiative belonged to someone else and that it had already been accomplished before they believed.

Fifth, this leads to the issue of election in relation to depravity. I would encourage you to again look at the essay I have posted on the bsf website called “My Understanding of the Biblical Doctrine of Election.” The basic point is that if we cannot take one step toward God (Rom 3:10-13), if we are unable to respond to anything outside the realm of sin (Eph 2:1), then if anyone is ever to get saved, God must take the initiative. This initiative cannot be simply corporate; he must initiate in the case of each individual. Eph 2:1-10 is explicitly about God’s initiation in the case of individual believers; this sets the stage for 2:11-22 in which corporate election is seen. But there can be no corporate election unless there is first individual election. Corporate election, at bottom, is a denial of total depravity. Or, to put it another way, if corporate election is true and if total depravity is true, then no one will ever get saved because no one will ever freely choose to be in Christ. Only by the gracious initiative of God does anyone ever choose Christ.

Sixth, corporate election offers no assurance of anything to the individual. If election is corporate only, then the promises given to the elect are only given to them corporately. This would mean that we cannot claim individual promises about our salvation. This would include the promise of eternal security. Paul writes, “who will bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Rom 8:33)—an allusion to the election of the Son (Isa 50:8). This allusion suggests that God looks on us as he looks on his own Son. But if we read this as saying that only groups are chosen, then the charge that is brought against the elect must be a corporate charge. How does that offer any comfort to the individual? To be consistent with a corporate-only view, when Paul says, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”(Rom 8:35), we would have to read that corporately. It would not be a promise to individuals (and it is interesting that Paul says “us” not “me” in vv. 35-39; his lone reference to himself is in the line “I am convinced” [v 38]). If election is only corporate, then eternal security is only offered on a corporate plane. No personal assurance can take place. The irony is that those who hold to corporate election often also hold to eternal security. They don’t realize the extreme inconsistency in their views. You can’t have it both ways: either we are individually chosen by a free act of God’s will and are eternally secure, or we are neither.

Seventh, Rom 8:29-30 seems to be decisive on this issue: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” The relative pronoun throughout refers to the same group each time: no one is lost—from foreknowing,[2] through predestination, through calling, through justification, and to glorification. At any point if we wish to broaden the group beyond those who are actually saved, we violate the grammar of the text and the point of the apostle. Thus, unless we want to hold to universal salvation, we must surely view this text as being restrictive. God’s initiative and efficacy in our salvation are clearly indicated here.

Well, that’s a quick treatment on corporate election. For a more detailed look at it, I would recommend James White’s book, The Potter’s Freedom, a book which takes on one of evangelicalism’s greatest Arminian apologists, Norm Geisler.

God bless you in your pursuit of truth for his glory. It’s quite an adventure isn’t it?


[1] What is significant here is that the choice of Judas actually illustrates that election is entirely unconditional. Judas certainly did not possess the kind of character that made him suitable to be an apostle. Yet Jesus chose him anyway—knowing his character and what he would do.

[2] As I’m sure you’re aware, God’s foreknowledge in the NT does not refer simply to knowing beforehand, but to God’s loving selection beforehand. Otherwise, the significance of the death of Christ has to be reinterpreted (Acts 2:23)!

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    220 replies to "Corporate Election (Dan Wallace)"

    • Gary Simmons

      Having grown up Church of Christ, a group which emphasizes corporate election, I find this post very thought-provoking and convincing.

      Thank you, Dr. Wallace.

      It is good that you hold a “both…and” approach to this, also. Far too often I have seen among Evangelical folk theology the “accept Jesus as your personal savior” mindset completely cut off from an ecclesiological perspective that acknowledges corporate election and any sense of communal identity whatsoever. (Church of Christ folk theology seems to miss the mark here, also.)

      May God grant you perseverance and insight for the coming weeks and years in your studies, writing, and teaching. Peace & grace.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      I asked this on the other post and no one seems to know, but perhaps you do. Are you aware of any current Christian philosopher who considers compatibilism to be logically coherent concept?? I have honestly been searching for someone who does and has written about it and addressed the arguments of others against it. Just about every and I mean every Christian philosopher I have come across states exactly the opposite and asserts that compatibilism is for instance “utterly implausible” (Alvin Plantinga). Absent the validity of compatibilism it’s hard to see how Calvinism can be true.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Michael, I’m not sure I even know what combatilism is! I’m just an exegete, not a philosopher.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      Just stating look at the Wikipedia article would probably be insufficient to adequately explain compatibilism. Defining the other two perspectives is much easier.

      Libertarian Free Will – Human beings have the freedom of contrary choice. Arminians hold this view

      Hard Determinism – All that occurs, both good and evil, is directly caused by God or a series of cause and effect events put into motion by God (one could use immaterial fates just as easily). People and in fact the entire world is ultimately a computer program and reality is a farce. Most Calvinists and Arminians would deny this view both because it inevidibly makes God the author of sin and it precludes moral responsibility (one cannot logically be morally outraged at a computer program simply playing out it’s programming).

      Compatabilism essentially tries to affirm divine determinism and then redefine free will to be compatible with determinism. The problem is that if one looks at the various arguments (i.e. Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence) it doesn’t esacape the problems because it is still hard determinism. It just attempts to hide this behind a facade. Thus philosophically the options for the nature of things are, according to every Christian philosopher of which I am aware, Libertarian Free Will or Hard Determinism.

      So the question I guess is that if exegesis of Scripture inevidibly neccessitates a logically contradictory metaphysical belief about the nature of free will should one question that exegesis? (I realize I haven’t established here in this post that it is logically contradictory – I am simply for purposes of this post asking the “if” question)

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Thanks for the illuminating explanation. On the one hand, I’m hesitant to question one’s exegesis if it means coming up with a position that seems incompatible with the text. Ultimately, it is scripture, not philosophy, that we must subject ourselves to. On the other hand, a view that is biblically based must have some coherence to it. But it need not be on the level of full human comprehension. Consider inspiration for example: the standard evangelical view is that the Bible is both the word of God and the words of men simultaneously, and that God did not force his wording on the authors, nor did he simply restrain them from writing error. Verbal dictation is clearly not allowed, nor is a view that treats inspiration only in negative terms. But I have yet to read anyone who can harmonize the notion that the human authors are fully engaged in the writing of scripture and yet the Spirit inspired the work—also fully. At certain points, we absolutely must admit that our comprehension is that of finite creatures who live in a three-dimensional world, when reality is so much greater than this.

      Paul seems to express this same viewpoint when he declares, “O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!” (Rom 11.33). This comes on the heels of Paul’s discourse about God’s sovereignty. It doesn’t sound to me as though Paul thought that human beings could figure the divine counsel out.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      I would agree that paradox to an extent is acceptable and furthermore that there are things which are beyond human comprehesion. However, that is not what is being claimed here. Rather what is being claimed (by the likes of William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, Peter Van Inwagen, etc.) is that there is a hard logical contradiction (and though I am no philosophy expert – I’m a lawyer – I find their arguments quite convincing for better or worse). Ultimately does not one use the laws of logic when performing exegesis and systematic theology?? For instance I think you would agree that the law of non-contradiction is a signifcant part of performing systematic theology (Scripture doesn’t directly contradict itself).

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Agreed. But the law of non-contradiction is sometimes applied when we don’t have all the facts. Our plane of existence is finite and we don’t grasp all that we can, which means that some things that look like contradictions to us are not. What about the analogy with inspiration?

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace

      There is of course the possiblity that our understanding of inspiration is incorrect if there is in fact a hard, intractable logical contradiction in the view (by which I do not mean simply a paradox). Thankfully Christian Philosphers have been hard at work at coming up with ways to avoid the contradiction. One proposal from Dr. Craig can be found here (be warned it’s long) though it is a good way to see how Christian Philosphers think about the work of Theologians (I honestly think both fields need to speak to each other more often).

      http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/menmoved.html

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Michael, don’t you find it a bit ironic that philosophers have been working hard at avoiding the contradiction that inspiration seems to present, and that the argument itself is of some length, while they are not doing the same thing with individual election vs. genuine choice? My guess is that if they were to invest the same amount of time in the latter they would come up with an equally lengthy explanation. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they could not solve this dilemma. At bottom, I still think that we’re dealing–in both cases–with an issue that is beyond our full comprehension. And in the final analysis, philosophers need to show that their exegesis is at plausible if they’re going to make any headway.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      I of course use “working hard” in a rather facetious manner. What I meant simply is that objections have been put forth which attempt to show that the traditional understanding of inspiration is logically fallacious. The objections have been responded to in a manner which show that the understanding is not logically fallacious as had been alledged.

      In the case of compatibilism it is not true that philosophers have not attempted to show that it is not logically fallacious. Many have and in fact at one time in the Early 20th Century compatibilism was quite in vogue. The fact, at least according to the afformentioned philsophers, is that none of the arguments have stood up (which is why I am actually searching for someone from the other side – unamimous opinions are rare – someone has to have responded somewhere).

      To your final point I think it is logically fallacious to say that they need to show some other exegesis is plausible in order to make headway. At least in my opinion either the metaphysical beliefs neccessitated by ones exegesis are logically plausible or logically fallacious. If they are logically fallacious one must look for another understanding.

      Also on one other note is it fair to say that there are others in your field who would disagree with the exegesis you’ve given above or is there unanimity on this?

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Michael, are you saying then that logic is to be the master over scripture? I appreciate logic as much as the next guy, but I also recognize the limits of our understanding. And, again, I must insist that any view has to be able to explain the text, using the linguistic and historical features of the text that we can discern. As far as those who comment on Romans, it is interesting that Arminians tend to comment on other books than Romans. John Piper’s The Justification of God (an exposition of Romans 9) needs to be answered if Arminians are to gain any headway in this chapter.

    • Jon H.

      I am not much of a theologian or philosopher, but I think I hold to a view of compatibilism. I think Christians were elected based on whether we would freely choose to love God given the opportunity by God presented through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God still has to initiate our ability to do this, but has just initiated the ability for those who would actually respond to it. For us it is actually free will because we are based in time. From God’s perspective (being outside of time and already seeing everything that has happened) it was predestination. It seems to me that might be how both arguments for our free will and God’s predestination are compatible. What would be the fallacies of this argument?

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      I guess I am in a sense saying that logic is the master over Scripture. Now don’t go flying off your seat shouting heretic just yet and let me explain. Scripture is at it’s base a document intended to be read by human readers. As such humans must interpret the words on the pages in order to apply a meaning to those words and arrive at a conclusion as to what the Bible means. The only possible way that one can do this is through logic. Now it may not be as developed as a formal syllogism, but when, for instance, one is confronted with a word that has more then one meaning and chooses one meaning over another given the context, they are using logic.

      Logic is ultimately inescapable. You can’t help but use it if words on a page or the world in general are to make any sense whatsoever. Absent logic one can claim whatever they want and the assertion that I am a baked potato is no more or less valid then the assertion that I am a human being. Or in the case of the Bible the assertion that Skubulon should be translated “crap” (love your article on that by the way) is no more valid then saying it should be translated “computer monitor” (which is of course illogical for multiple reason, not the least of which is that computer monitors didn’t exist 2000 years ago). Just saying that X means Y is an exercise in logic.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Michael, what you’ve demonstrated is that logic is needed in understanding scripture. But your statement that “humans must interpret the words on the pages in order to apply a meaning to those words and arrive at a conclusion as to what the Bible means. The only possible way that one can do this is through logic” is not correct. Logic is needed, but it is not the only tool that one must use in interpreting a text. We also must use linguistic features (grammar, syntax, lexeme, etc.), history, cultural background, context, literary art, etc. These are all tools that we use to understand scripture, but we don’t place any of them above scripture. And, at bottom (I’m sounding like a broken record here), if our view of scripture is such that we can make everything fit into a neat logical box, then I would submit that we have misunderstood scripture and have placed ourselves above God.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      All the tools you mention (linguistic features, history, context) etc. are tools and evidence to be used in making a logical argument that something should be interpreted in a certain way. They are not the argument itself. If I say X should be interpreted as meaning Y you will ask, “Why”? You will then expect me to produce evidence that is logically relevant to the subject and logically explains why X should mean Y. If, going back to the example above, I said Skubalon means “crap” because my mothers birthday is tommorrow you would rightly think I’m nuts. But why?? Because my reasoning was non-sequitar. In fact when you ask for a refutation of Piper’s “Justification” you are asking for a reasoned, logical explanation of why Piper is wrong. If I said Piper’s Justification is wrong because Piper is a no good dirty Baptist (I’m a Baptist btw) you would rightly ignore me.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      What you are essentially arguing is that the logic of what is perceived, i.e., experiential, is superior to the logic of the text, i.e., the logic that makes sense of linguistic, historical, contextual, canonical data of the Scripture. This isn’t a matter of logic versus illogic, but a matter of Scripture versus experience. I think that is the problem we’re running into. The source of authority we must first makes sense of is foundational to the argument. I must make sense of revelation before I attempt to make sense of what I perceive to be the case apart from revelation. For you, and we’ve had this discussion before, Scripture must accord with your perceived logic or truth, i.e., your sense of what is true. Of course, you have to assume all sorts of things that I don’t think are biblical about man and his ability to perceive the world correctly.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      As an example of the type of logic I am referring to…

      1. All A are B
      2. X is A
      3. Therefore X is B

      or in the case of Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument

      1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
      2. The universe began to exist
      3. Therefore the universe had a cause

      which is a form of this

      1. All that have A have B
      2. X has A
      3. Therefore X has B

      It’s not experiential – more mathematic. For instance here is an earlier version of the consequence argument.

      http://www2.drury.edu/cpanza/vaninwagenI.html

      Secondly if one does not have rules of logical argumentation when approaching Scripture as I stated earlier one can state Scripture means whatever they want it to mean. Absent logical rules no assertion can be any better then another interpretation. When I say X in Scripture means Y and you tell me it doesn’t because of various liguistic, historical, and contextual factors you are making a logical argument. The logic you are using precedes understanding Scripture. To state that the logic it is drawn from Scripture is absurd since absent that logic base Scripture is gibberish. It’s no different then absent reading lessens the letters in a book are gibberish to a 3 year old.

    • bethyada

      Dan Wallace, I have read this thru twice and think you have presented your position well, and some of it moderately persuasively to someone from a different perspective.

      I am tending toward a corporate perspective in Romans 9, and I wonder whether you corporate interpretation is a little too “corporate.” God saves individuals, not groups of people. But God can still have a plan as part of his purpose that involves groups. God had intentions for Israel that he did not have for Gentiles prior to Christ, but individuals inside Israel were not saved, and some outside Israel were. So it is clear that the possibility of corporate and individual perspectives play a part in some of the Bible (and you say as much).

      I don’t find your comments about God choosing individuals for tasks (apostles, Abraham) overly relevant in the debate over election unto salvation. But I would add that perhaps (some) election passages are about God’s purposes for a group, and not about individuals getting saved?

      But in defence of corporate perspective, I think one can argue for individuals within a group even if the group is defined corporately. The elect are individuals within the group if the example applies to individuals, and the group if the example refers to the group as a whole; and the former still applies even if “election” or “church” is defined corporately.

      (I find the choice of Romans 8 interesting. It may be reasonable that no one is lost from foreknowing to glorification, but foreknowledge is hardly synonymous with forechoosing.)

    • bethyada

      Michael T, you are correct about logic. Reason is part of the imago Dei. It is not that Scripture is so much subservient to it, rather it is incomprehensible without it. As God is reasons right and better than us, his Word is hardly going to be unreasonable (meaning illogical).

      So if a theological position is logically incoherent it is not true. A cannot be not A (in the same way at the same time).

      This is not to be confused with a philosophical-theological position which can be disproved by Scripture.

      Though because of our (fallen) poor reasoning abilities, what we call illogical may sometimes be our wrong reasoning.

    • Jeremy

      @bethyada:

      You said:

      “(I find the choice of Romans 8 interesting. It may be reasonable that no one is lost from foreknowing to glorification, but foreknowledge is hardly synonymous with forechoosing.)”

      There’s a whole debate here about what it means for God to “know” something, but I won’t go there for now. Just taking what you said at face value; it essentially makes the section on “calling” redundant. If they were foreknown, in the sense that you give it, they must have already been called. I think at that point the logical (heh!) conclusion is that there are two types of calling. But that whole idea seems to take wind right out of the sails of what Paul is saying here. While it sounds grandiose and powerful, it really deserves a giant asterisk and a note stating that it’s all dependent on our responding correctly to the initial “calling” (which is oddly omitted given that it’s REALLY the foundation for Paul’s progression of thought here) and moment by moment choosing to remain in Christ.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Please reread what I said. I didn’t say we draw logic from the Scripture. I said we use logic to understand both the Scripture and experience, i.e., what we perceive from our finite perspective. You are wanting to make sense of what you perceive as true from experience and then make sense of Scripture with that. I would make sense of Scripture and then see if my understanding gained from experience complies. It is a difference in the delineation of authority.
      The logical syllogisms you gave me are just methods of logic. They have nothing to do with what you are putting into those syllogisms. What you put into them is the subject of which you are trying to make sense; and when you put them together, which has priority will shed light on all sorts of presuppositions about man, God, the universe, the gospel, etc.
      So what I said before stands. You are placing perceived truth over revealed truth in terms of which one must dictate the interpretive boundaries to the other, are you not?

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I see no reason why if logic applies to our method for trying to deduce the meaning to the text logic shouldn’t also apply to the plausibility of the meanings we draw from that text and whether or not those meanings are logically contradictory. It is ultimately the same rules.

      So for instance

      1. I draw meaning A from text X (using argumentation and evidence to form a logical, reasoned argument)
      2. I draw meaning B from text Y
      3. I draw meaning C from text Z

      Then why can’t I do this

      4. According to the rules of logic holding to meanings A, B, and C at once creates a logical contradiction and therefore one of my interpretations must be wrong.

      Or This

      4. Holding to meaning A inescapably requires that the world be flat.
      5. The world is demonstrably not flat
      6. Therefore meaning A is wrong

      I see no reason for the divide you wish to create.

    • cherylu

      I am not at all going to argue that revelation is not very important in understanding Scripture. Neither am I going say that logic is not very important.

      Without naming names, anyone that has followed a conversation on another thread on this site for the last few days should have had an up close and personal look at what happens when one uses only what they believe to be revelation or spiritual knowing to interpret Scripture and doesn’t employ any normal rules or logic of interpretation of written material. That logic was bypassed and the results were interesting to say the least.

    • Jugulum

      Michael,

      I agree that logic/non-contradiction is used in interpreting Scripture. That’s what’s happening when we say “You can’t interpret that passage as teaching universalism, because other passages unambiguously teach that some people will spend eternity in hell.”

      It’s also what’s happening when someone says “You can’t interpret that passage as denying universalism, because the Bible clearly teaches that God loves everyone.”

      In the first, the contradiction is very direct–“some will be in hell for eternity” vs “no one will be in hell for eternity”. In the second, the problem is in underlying assumptions: Someone is holding to a preconceived understanding, in which if God loves someone, he will necessarily bring them to heaven when they die. (I’m not 100% sure whether the resolution lies in a better understanding of love, or in a better understanding of what’s required to keep someone out of hell, or in something else.)

      The point is, logic is only as good as your assumptions & definitions. (As Dan put it, sometimes we apply logic before we have all the facts.) Scripture is supposed to correct our assumptions & definitions–we’re supposed to learn something. That can resolve apparent conflicts–but we should also remember that God didn’t promise to reveal all the understanding we’d need to resolve every apparent conflict we might encounter.

      As for compatibilism: Let’s grant for the sake of argument that compatibilism seems to be incoherent. We can’t be any more confident in that than we are in our understanding of what choice really is, or how it works (i.e. what the “will” is), or how God might act to bring about his purposes.

      Speaking for myself: I don’t know how choice works. I can’t wrap my mind around it. And I don’t have good reason to think that anyone else does. So this philosophy isn’t enough to make me say, “I must be misunderstanding these election passages.”

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      This is where we divide: “I see no reason why if logic applies to our method for trying to deduce the meaning to the text logic shouldn’t also apply to the plausibility of the meanings we draw from that text”

      We divide on this point because of the unseen proposition in your statement here, but one you have made clear already, and that is:

      The Scripture must accord with what I perceive to be true. If there is a logical contradiction with what I perceive to be true, the Scripture must be reinterpreted to harmonize.

      Cheryl,

      I find your comments absurd. Everyone in the conversation has been using logic. Some of us, however, were using the Scripture as our authority to decipher first and then apply that to our logic of the world. Others were just content to see their traditions, gained from the logic of experience, to hold greater sway. Hence, that group did not bother with the formality of discussing the text too indepth.

    • Jugulum

      Side note: It’s annoying that the blog’s font turns double-dashes into a character that looks as small as a regular hyphen. Like in this sentence:

      Scripture is supposed to correct our assumptions & definitions–we’re supposed to learn something.

      It looks like the two words are hyphenated. To get a dash in the sentence, you have to remember to put three dashes:

      Scripture is supposed to correct our assumptions & definitions—we’re supposed to learn something.

    • cherylu

      Thanks Hodge, you do have a way with words, don’t you?

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Are you not as bound by your tradition as anyone else? You assume that you are absolutely correct in your interpretation of the Bible and you base your tradition upon this interpretation. The fact that this interpretation can be challenged on numerous logical grounds leads you to simply dismiss any challenge not based upon the text. You really are no different then those who still dogmatically claim the Earth is flat (and yes they do still exist). Scriptural Revelation is far superior to general revelation and therefore feel free to ignore general revelation whenever it threatens ones tradition.

      And again no matter how dogmatically you claim otherwise your logic preceded Scripture and is the basis upon which you understand Scripture. One cannot draw logic from Scripture and then apply it to the world. One can only draw ideas and themes from Scripture and then show through logic how they apply to the world, but the logic itself does not come from Scripture. Scripture rather assumes logic just like it assumes Greek or Hebrew or the cultural setting of 1st Century Palestine.

    • wm tanksley

      I’m a little late to this party (but only a little).

      Michael, I didn’t notice your claim that “hard determinism” is implied by compatibilism in general (and Calvinism in particular), but denied by them. I’m a little confused … from what I’ve read, the ONLY difference between hard and soft determinism is that soft determinists are compatibilists. There’s no other difference.

      What am I missing?

      How can compatibilism imply its own rejection?

      Oh, Cheryl — what you said in post #23 is unworthy of you. If you’re going to call names, name names first. And do so to our faces. What happened in that thread is not at ALL as you’ve attempted to characterize it. (Am I really supposed to be rebelling against all the rules of logic??? Has someone stolen your computer and is posting in your name? This namecalling isn’t like you at all. Disagree without being disagreeable, please.)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Um William,

      I am not talkling about you and I am not talking about Hodge and I am not talking about any conversations on the Calvinism thread at all!

      Quit jumping to conclusions here, would you, and jumping down my throat for something I didn’t even do. I know at least one person that read my comment would know exactly who I was referring to and I figured a lot of others probably would too. After all, it was a conversation that has been going on for many days now. I didn’t name names because I didn’t want to embarrass the gentleman in question if he happened to be reading here. And I certainly had no idea at all that you would take it personally.

      I was talking about this thread and a recent conversation with a gentleman there:

      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/04/will-one-white-lie-send-you-to-hell-for-all-eternity/#comments

      Go read the conversation there for yourself, both you and Hodge, and I think you just might see what I mean and why I brought this up in this thread where revelation of Scripture was being stressed so strongly even if it didn’t logically see to make sense.

      Next time I will definetly know better then to try and use an exmample like this. I guess it wasn’t wise of me to try this time and I apologize for that.

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      The various arguments on the issue appear to show that soft determinism (compatibilism) is an oxymoron. The beliefs the soft determinist has entail hard determinism.

      As to Cheryl’s comments they maybe should have been posted on the other forum, but I agree with her conclusions to a point. I can’t follow your logic at least. You basically seem to continually be saying English words don’t mean what they mean. At the end of the day on the other forum you are basically saying to me and Cheryl that absent a belief in Calvinism we can’t even put English words together properly to form meaningful sentences. The sentence stated reads “God is the author of sin” and you tell us that it doesn’t mean “God is the author of sin”. I don’t really know what to say to that.

    • Michael T.

      ROFL,

      I’ve been in that coversation Cheryl and I still thought you were talking about Hodge and WM.

    • cherylu

      Well Michael T,

      I thought surely YOU would know exactly what I was talking about since you were a part of that conversation! Oh dear.

    • wm tanksley

      I am not talkling about you and I am not talking about Hodge and I am not talking about any conversations on the Calvinism thread at all!

      Thank you so much for so quickly clarifying that. In case you’re wondering, I would take your bare assertion that you weren’t talking about me as gospel truth — you are the authority on what your words mean, and I won’t question what you say you meant.

      You’ve been gracious in the past, so I’m much relieved that you continue to be so.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      The various arguments on the issue appear to show that soft determinism (compatibilism) is an oxymoron. The beliefs the soft determinist has entail hard determinism.

      You’ve put one single argument forward which you claim shows that, but the author’s backed away from that claim and now says that it actually disproves free will (not compatibilism). You’ve put nothing else forward, so it’s an exaggeration to say “various arguments”.

      I can’t follow your logic at least. You basically seem to continually be saying English words don’t mean what they mean.

      It would help if you’d ask questions, I think. I don’t even know what you mean at this point — what English words have I called into question?

      At the end of the day on the other forum you are basically saying to me and Cheryl that absent a belief in Calvinism we can’t even put English words together properly to form meaningful sentences.

      I have no idea what you’re referring to. Could you post to the other forum the post number in which it appears I made that claim? I’ll tell you right now right here that I didn’t intend to make that statement, and I disclaim it utterly.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      The sentence stated reads “God is the author of sin” and you tell us that it doesn’t mean “God is the author of sin”. I don’t really know what to say to that.

      I remember making a post on the subject of that sentence, but I’m confused at how you read it. I referred to two different authors using that phrase, Calvin (who was speaking in Reformation-era French) and the Westminster divines (who were speaking in an old dialect of English). The interesting thing to me is that Calvin was quoted as “God is the author of sin”, and the Westminster divines said “God cannot be the author of sin”. The problem is that it’s very well documented that the meaning of “author” in the older English language wasn’t the same as it is in the modern English. I don’t know what language Calvin was writing in, so I can’t even guess what word he used, but from other context I can guess his meaning as being closer to the modern English sense.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      “And again no matter how dogmatically you claim otherwise your logic preceded Scripture and is the basis upon which you understand Scripture.”

      Michael,
      You remind me of atheists who throw around the word “science” as a way to posture a point. Logic are the rules and methodologies we use in ordering our thoughts. I’m sure there’s a better definition, but it isn’t the one you’ve been throwing around. I hope that I’ve used logic before I came to Scripture, but that has nothing to do with what I do with Scripture. I think you’re talking about philosophical presuppositions, not logic. They’re two different things. My point to you is that you are wanting your logic to assign authority first to what you perceive to be true via experience and then to the Scripture as secondary. That means that you not only recheck Scripture when experience may cause you to do so, you have to distort or reject Scripture when it does. Your not going to reject it, so for you, it’s a radical reinterpretation of texts that ignores context, grammar, etc. That’s eisegesis, not exegesis. I’m happy to re-evaluate my interpretation of Scripture based on external concepts in order to make sure that the Scripture really says what both I and those within my tradition believe it says, but I’m not willing to turn off my brain to the text because I don’t want to admit that my perception of the God and the world gained from experience may be deceiving me.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      It’s good to know that you find Wm and I to be of the highest logical order. 😉 Thanks for clarifying.

    • Michael T.

      WM

      “You’ve put one single argument forward which you claim shows that, but the author’s backed away from that claim and now says that it actually disproves free will (not compatibilism). You’ve put nothing else forward, so it’s an exaggeration to say “various arguments”.”

      I have never read any writing of Van Inwagen’s where he makes the statements you claim. As I said earlier he has made statements in the past that he is not sure LFW is a fully coherent concept either (which would leave one solely with hard determinism). However, I have never seen anything where he backs away from his claim that compatibilism is a logical contradiction or that the Consequence Argument demonstrates this. Perhaps you could point me to where this is.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Again I think you are confusing a merely emotional appeal to the way I want things to be with the logical erudiation of analytic philosophy. Just to give an example. The Kalam Cosmological Argument mentioned earlier.

      1. All things which begin to exist have a cause.
      2. The universe began to exist.
      3. The universe therefore has a cause.

      Now when presented with an argument like this one can defeat it in two ways. The first is to deny that the conclusion follows the premises. The second is to show that one of the premises is false or even that the denial of one of the premises is more plausible then the affirmation of that premise. Since in this case according to the rules of logic the conclusion logically follows the premises one can either give a defeator by showing an example where something came into existence uncaused, or that the universe did not have a beggining. One cannot simply say “well I feel that no God exists and therefore I’m just going to deny the validity of the argument”

    • […] a comment » Daniel B. Wallace begins his answer to a pastor regarding the viability of corporate election with the following: “First, allow […]

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      “Again I think you are confusing a merely emotional appeal to the way I want things to be with the logical erudiation of analytic philosophy.”

      No, I’m not. Analytical philosophy is based on presuppositions to which one cannot arrive at via analytical philosophy. You have starting points from which you reason. What dictates those starting points is that which you believe to be true, and what you believe to be true is based upon what authority you believe accurately communicates that truth to you.

      Your explanation of how a syllogism works has nothing to do with what I’m saying. You need to back up a step. You’re assuming all sorts of things in the premises. The premises are where you are placing the category of “Things you believe to be true.” The premises are stated as true because the philosopher perceives that they are true either by A. an experience he has himself, or B. an external authority to himself which he trusts. You are arguing primarily that that which falls under Category A is primary in determining reality and that that which is in Category B, specifically the Bible, is to be harmonized with it, even if the logic of the text screams otherwise. This isn’t a matter of logic. It’s a matter of which authority is to be the primary source, i.e., controlling propositions, to which other sources of our conceptual world must bow.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      OK I think I see what you are saying in one sense, but I don’t think that is what is going on here. One is getting their premises in the current case from what the compatibilist claims to believe and then showing that by the rules of logic those beliefs are logically contradictory. So for instance if one believed that all rich people are Republicans because the rich people they know are Republicans we could demonstrate via the rules of logic that the conclusion that all rich people are Republicans does not follow from the premise that some Republicans are rich.

      What one believes personally is irrelevant to an evaluation of someone elses belief showing that that belief is a logically contradictory belief.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I agree with everything you said there. The problem is that you have not demonstrated a logical contradiction in terms of the belief not following from the premises or in terms of the belief being self refuting. You only think this because you get to frame the debate with your own definitions of “free will,” which by its very nature cannot have predetermination. We don’t define free will that way, and as I said, I don’t even like using the term because it carries too much baggage that confuses in my mind what the Bible is saying. If we go by your definitions, then sure, your argument makes sense. The problem is that we don’t use your definitions, me, Wm, or any other Calvinist I have ever known. If man is influenced effectually rather than forced, I see that he has made a volitional choice and is responsible for his decision. I see no contradiction in saying that God effectually influences him then.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I would also furthermore add that I think you objection, while I kind of get it, is ultimately irrelevant. If someone presents you with the premises of a argument and the conclusion one should be able to show that those premises are false. So for instance if the Kalam Cosmological Argument given earlier is wrong one should be able to show where it went wrong unless of course the argument is question begging in which case it is logically fallacious anyhow (and this could take the form of showing a presupposition inherent in the argument which is likely wrong). The actualy beliefs of Bill Craig are irrelevant. Either the premises are true and the conclusion follows making the argument valid, or the argument is false.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Here is a fundamental question that may illuminate things or may not – I don’t know.

      Is the universe fundamentally cause and effect? So for instance will the fact that Shelley chose to ride the bus to work today instead of drive inevidibly lead through a simply cause and effect manner to her marrying the boy she meets on the bus. Or is there some transcendent X factor within humans which can interupt the causal chain? If there is no X factor then how can one describe things as anything other than a very intricate computer program, or perhaps a Rube Goldberg machine.

    • While I take exception with some aspects of what you wrote, I do find the last sentence off base. As an Arminian, I do not consider Norman Geisler “the greatest Arminian apologist.” Even Geisler himself doesn’t consider himself an Arminian nor do I. At best he would be a 4 point Arminian but not a full blow Arminian as I am. For example, Geisler believes in eternal security (as Calvinist likewise do though they might use different words) but classical Arminians do not.

      The greatest Arminian apologist is hard to define. I enjoy Dr. Jack Cottrell or Dr. Robert Picirilli. However, I understand the Calvinist dislike for Geisler for his attacks on White’s The Potter’s Freedom and so they label him that nasty word “Arminian” though that is not completely accurate.

    • Hodge

      “So for instance if the Kalam Cosmological Argument given earlier is wrong one should be able to show where it went wrong unless of course the argument is question begging in which case it is logically fallacious anyhow (and this could take the form of showing a presupposition inherent in the argument which is likely wrong).”

      Michael,

      This itself begs the question as to whether we have all of the information we need to rightly understand that our premises, based on our experiential observation and reasoning from the natural world, are in fact correct. That again returns us to the authority question. It’s not irrelevant at all.

      “Is the universe fundamentally cause and effect? So for instance will the fact that Shelley chose to ride the bus to work today instead of drive inevidibly lead through a simply cause and effect manner to her marrying the boy she meets on the bus.”

      I think you’re framing this wrong. We should discuss this in terms of Shelley’s enslavement to sin. Shelley will choose whatever she loves. Her love is bound to her life of self worship. She is not free because of her sin. She serves a master. She willingly does so, but she serves as a slave nonetheless. Can Shelley do anything other than sin? No. Her life is sin. So she is bound by her sin. God, in His sovereignty, then uses that enslavement toward a good purpose rather than toward meaninglessness. So can Shelley use her sin any way she wants to? No, she must use it as the King of All things directs it to His good. Her choice is in serving sin. The individual ways she does that, which then lead to events transpiring in this or that way, is still a choice she is willingly making, but is influenced by God via another agent to bring about the events as He wishes them to transpire. So I don’t believe that the human has a trascendent quality because I don’t view choice as something that is not utterly influenced by environment, lesser agents, God, and herself (remember, she…

    • Hodge

      influences herself as well due to her sin nature).

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. “This itself begs the question as to whether we have all of the information we need to rightly understand that our premises, based on our experiential observation and reasoning from the natural world, are in fact correct. That again returns us to the authority question.”

      Then point out what bit of information we don’t have all the information about, or what presupposition is not properly grounded or could be false. It’s not like it’s hard to show the possibility that something like this being wrong. Now it may not be a plausible solution. For instance let me show a way the Kalam Cosmological “could” be wrong. Add this bit of information. We all live in a computer program like the movie the Matrix and nothing is real. Now of course this is highly implausible and would fail to convince 99% of people that the argument is invalid, but it would defeat the argument.

      Ultimately though I’m not sure how one can go against what they know to be true about the world. If one knows the world is round they won’t believe and will reinterpret or come to a different understanding of the passages in Scripture which indicate that it is flat. If one knows that the orchid, and not the mustard seed, is the smallest seed one will come to an understanding that the mustard seed is background information and not the teaching itself. If one knows that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa one will interpret Bible passages which indicate otherwise as being faulty cultural information. In each of these cases I agree 100% with making the determinations that have been made. In fact I would bet that independent of one another we have come to very similar conclusions about these passages. Yet in each case it is in fact Scripture which has bowed to our understanding of the world and not vice versa. What do we do with that??

      2. Why does she choose to be a slave to sin?? And if you answer because she desires sin why does she desire sin??

    • wm tanksley

      Now when presented with an argument like [the Kalaam] one can defeat it in two ways.

      That’s all true; but you can also defeat an argument’s purpose by pointing out that one of its premises, although well-supported and plausible, is unproven and could possibly be false, or by showing that some of the steps in the proof are weak and could possibly be false. Hawking recently attempted to do essentially that with the premise ‘all things which come into existance have a beginning.’ His alleged counterexample is a mere mathematical possibility, but it (if it worked) weakens the Kalaam from a complete certainty to a merely strong likelihood. This means that although an atheistic origin story is still unscientific, it’s not a total impossibility.

      The point is not that philosophical conclusions are useless; the point is that they are very complex, often more complex than they seem, and the more complex they are, the more tentatively humans should hold to them.

      The complexity of a philosophical premise may be judged roughly based on the number of steps of reasoning it requires starting with the evidence (as well as the certainty of the steps).

      This is why Hodge and I prefer to see interpretations of the Bible being made based on other Biblical interpretations, rather than based on philosophical theories remotely derived from philosophical interpretations.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m sorry. I think you misunderstood me, and it was my fault. My point wasn’t addressing the argument. I was under the impression that the argument you were using was merely an illustration to a larger point. I was addressing premises in general and their limitations to our presuppositions based in our beliefs about authority. I wasn’t looking to dismantle the argument specifically.

      Your second paragraph was exactly what I was saying before. It’s not a point against what I am saying at all. I said that I thought it was fine to allow extra-biblical concepts to challenge us to reread the Bible in case we misunderstood what it was teaching. All of your examples are of that variety. That’s not bowing the Scripture to those extrabiblical concepts because if Scripture is seen to be teaching X, then X is not to be bowed to our experiential perception. But to conclude that we have to ignore what the passage is saying or cause it to conform to our experience in contradiction to the language, context, grammar, images, etc. is not something with which I would agree at all.

      2. Because she has a sin nature. Didn’t we go over this already? The two human beings who chose to use their free will (and they actually had it in terms of not being bound by a sin nature) to worship themselves instead of God. Their children, being separated relationally from God now, end up loving themselves and choosing to live in that same rebellion. You seem to be implying that if a person is influenced effectually to sin, then they cannot be held responsible because they don’t really choose. That is absurd to me. And you still have not answered my question on John 12:39-40. I’m going to keep bringing it up until you answer it. I seriously want to know how you explain passages like this.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. Is it that we have simply reexamined Scripture found it to say something different then it said before or is it that our understanding of the way the world works has changed and therefore when we look at the text we (with those new presuppositions) inevidiby find something different?

      2. OK, she has a sin nature. Why does she have a sin nature? Because of the fall (seriuosly theology may not be my strongest suit, but I at least get this). The next questions is why did the fall of humanity occur? Because Adam and Eve ate the apple. Why did Adam and Eve eat the apple? Because they desired to do so. Why did Adam and Eve desire to commit sin and eat the apple??

      3. On the passage in John. As I’ve indicated I’m no exegete, nor a theologian. I’m a lawyer for heavens sake which is probably the furthest thing from either one of those. I have enough knowledge from reading the Bible and studying it to recognize obvious error (e.g. the person on the other post who is claiming that a true Christian never sins and he himself has not sinned since he became a true Christian) but beyond that I can only defer to those more educated then myself. Arminian theologians have of course responded to this text and just about every other Calvinist proof text there is numerous times and in numerous ways (Calvinists have of course done the same for Arminian proof texts). If I were to simply view the Arminian – Calvinist debate objectively I think I would find that the funniest element is that no explanation ever given by a Arminian is acceptable to a Calvinist and no explanation ever given by a Calvinist is acceptable to a Arminian. I have yet to ever hear one side say the other side has made a good point about anything. So one must wonder what the point about debating Scripture is on the subject. Any response is going to be ridiculous from the Calvinists perspective and vice versa.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      1. I seriously think, for some, that you’re right, and that they simply have more faith in their perceptions than the Scripture, and therefore, that is why they have changed their minds and bowed Scripture to that; but for me, that is not why I, nor most of the evangelical scholars I know, look twice at the text. We’re not looking to bow the Scripture to our experiential notions, but to make sure that we have understood it correctly if we’re going to die on that hill. In the case of cosmology, you might be surprised to know that most of the Church has wondered if the purpose of Scripture was to communicate these sorts of things to us or whether they are simply used in the service of its theological or ethical messages. I view myself in a long line of Christians, then, who have taken a second look at Scripture to make sure I was looking it at correctly. So I don’t disagree that some have interpreted Scripture differently because they have a higher authority than the Scripture, but i do disagree that this is the case for all of us who have taken a second look.

      2. You’re asking why they desired to eat it? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Apparently, Eve was deceived into thinking it was good thing, so she ate it. Adam wasn’t deceived, but desired to perhaps please Eve. Their purposes were obviously evil in that they ignored God’s instruction to them. But what you’re really asking me is whether God MADE them eat of it, and the answer, as it has been, is, NO. But did God command a third party to enter the garden and influence them effectually to eat it so that He could ultimately redeem mankind? Absolutely. I don’t think that when the Scripture says that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world that this is simply God reacting to what He foresees occurring in a future sea of LFW decisions. In fact, I’m not sure how they are still LFW decisions if God knows beforehand that they will happen and nothing else can occur but what God knows…

    • Hodge

      beforehand, but I’ll leave that one for the Neo-Theists. The point in the Fall would be the same as the point at the end of Genesis, “You planned this for evil, but God planned it for good” (Gen 50:20).

      3. I’ll take that as an admission that you have no idea how it works out in your system, and you’re just going to therefore ignore it. I’ve never heard an Arminian explain this verse in its logical order, EVER; so maybe you’re more privy to their great explanations, but don’t want to fill me in on them? I think the text within the context of John, the immediate context, etc. is pretty clear. They did not believe because God prevented them from believing. He decided to punish their crimes rather than forgive them of their crimes. He decided to have mercy upon whom He would have mercy, and to harden whom He would harden.

    • Michael T.

      1. I guess the question is what authority we afford to general revelation. I would appear that Scripture itself contemplates there being authority inherent in the order observable in nature.

      2. Bill Craig has responded to the issue of whether or not LFW can exist concurrently with God’s foreknowledge in a debate I have read. Unfortunetly the search tool on his site is not working right now so I can’t find that debate. I will get the info as soon as I find it.

      3. “But did God command a third party to enter the garden and influence them effectually to eat it so that He could ultimately redeem mankind? Absolutely.”

      So then God is guilty of incitement is your argument more or less?? (I realize “guilty” is a charged word here – don’t really know how to phrase it in a less charged way).

      4. It’s not that I don’t have an answer to this or an understanding of this. It’s more that I do not feel adequate to debate any response you may have to it. Odds are you will dismiss it as illogical, not keeping with the text, taken out of context, etc. and I admittedly do not have the skills to debate you on such an issue anymore then I have the ability to debate Wallace’s exegesis above.

    • wm tanksley

      Some notes on older discussions that I wished to comment on:

      Hodge, Are you not as bound by your tradition as anyone else?

      Michael, I can’t speak for him, but I believe that although philosophy is valuable, it’s hard to do. The farther your process of reasoning takes you from the evidence, the less trustworthy the results are — the more likely you made a misstep along the way. The Bible is evidence that should be integrated into philosophy, and yes, it has to be interpreted — but a direct interpretation is only a short step away from the actual evidence. Compare that to our philosophies of compatibilism or LFW, which aren’t any kind of interpretation of any single Bible verse, but are rather remotely derived from evidence by means of long reasoning. One therefore shouldn’t use them directly to dismiss an interpretation of a Bible verse; rather, one should only use Bible verses in context to do so.

      Of course, LFW or compatibilism can war against each other on a level playing field. 🙂 And of course, we can use both names to characterize interpretations of Bible verses, as happened with Cheryl’s LFW reading of Deuteronomy 30; but I showed from the direct context that there was no LFW in sight of the author. (Of course, I should add that they didn’t say anything at all about compatibilism there either — it was simple determinism, no mention of will at all.)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Hey William,

      Did you read my follow up note on the other thread about the Deut verses? I showed over there how and why I believe your argument to be incorrect! 🙂 🙂

      PS These discussions could go on forever with no one convincing anyone of anything!!

    • wm tanksley

      So then God is guilty of incitement is your argument more or less?? (I realize “guilty” is a charged word here – don’t really know how to phrase it in a less charged way).

      James answers exactly this question in chapter 1.

      Let me set the context first. James first says that the result of temptation (which, in context, is the temptation to fall away because of poverty and local social persecution) is either endurance proving genuineness leading to a crown of glory given by God, or falling away. The natural question is to ask, since God gives the situation and the reward and the punishment, did God tempt us? James’ answer is inconsistent from the LFW answer (and the hard determinist answer): he says that temptation comes from our desires. He doesn’t say that temptation comes from having two free choices with one bad; it comes from our desires; and he doesn’t say that it comes because God made us fall away regardless of our desires. And the result of the temptation doesn’t show that we made a bad free choice: it shows that we have “proven to be genuine.” The one who endures to the end is not merely one who’s made a series of free choices all correctly (or who finally made the right choice at the end): rather, it’s the one who was genuine all along, or at the end; either way, by nature, not by choice.

      The choices simply make the person’s character (including their desires) evident. This is also apparent in James’ treatment of the tongue.

      -Wm

    • William Birch

      I thought I would make you all aware of the Reply to Wallace’s work on this subject by Dr. Brian Abasciano, member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. God bless.

    • A.M. Mallett

      William,
      Thank you for providing the link to Dr. Abasciano’s rebuttal article.

    • Curt Parton

      I somehow missed this post, and have just now read it. Dan, I highly appreciate much of your work, but I think you’ve gone off-track with this post. You write: “If that is what you mean by corporate election, then I would reject it,” and then explain why. The problem is the view of corporate election that you state and then oppose is a very poor and inadequate articulation of the corporate election view, and this affects the validity of much of the rest of your post. I strongly doubt if any of the leading proponents of corporate election would define the concept in this way. This is dangerously close to a straw man argument, which I’m sure is not your intention.

      I’m glad to see the link to Brian Abasciano’s response. I think he does a very capable job of responding to your post, and showing the weaknesses of your arguments. It would be interesting to read your surrejoinder.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Curt, thanks for your comments. It is quite possible that I don’t have a good grasp on corporate election. And the last thing I want to do is misrepresent another person’s viewpoint. Unfortunately, my schedule right now is really packed. I hope to read Abasciano’s materials in the next few weeks and offer a response at that time.

      dbw

    • Curt Parton

      Dan, thanks for your very gracious reply. I can definitely understand how busy you must be. I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts regarding Abasciano’s writings on corporate election when you have the time.

      Blessings,
      Curt

    • […] Corporate Election […]

    • Derek

      This post is very gracious, especially the opening paragraph. Loved it. I found the arguments, however, less convincing. As someone pointed out already, there is a distinction not being recognized in the post between being chosen for a purpose and elected for salvation. This makes the word “chose” a free-for-all, used for proof-text purposes.

      The jump to “corporate election amounts to a denial of total depravity” is rather hasty. This assumes that to deny this basic Calvinistic doctrine (Unconditional Election) amounts to heresy, of which then all of church history except the narrow strand of Beza-Calvinism subscribes. I think that is just a wee-bit arrogant and naive. Of course if anyone is ever to get saved, God must take the initiative. Your appeal to Eph 2:1-11 as a individual call preceding the corporate election of Eph 2:12-11 is ironic considering – on that logic – that Eph 1 precedes Eph 2:1-11 and stands on one of the strongest declarations of “In Christ” found in scripture.

      I’ll end there. 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      Derek, I think you’re confusing Total Depravity with something else. Denying total depravity is an error, I believe, but isn’t a recognized heresy. Catholics mostly reject it, and EO definitely formally reject it (along with Original Sin).

      The 5 points of Calvinism are logically linked such that denying one of them MUST deny the strict meaning of the others. In this case, to affirm corporate election you have to directly deny Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace (because those two imply that each and all of the chosen will certainly be saved), and if those are false, then grace is resistible, which means that the people who are saved must be the ones who didn’t resist it, which means that they must not be totally depraved, but only partially so.

      -Wm

    • Anonymous

      Only the first 50 comments show, and there does not seem to be any way to view the rest fo the comments.

    • Arminian

      wm tanksley said that grace being resistible “means that the people who are saved must be the ones who didn’t resist it, which means that they must not be totally depraved, but only partially so.”

      **** But this does not follow in the least. Arminianism holds that God enables people to believe. This does not change their nature, but enables them to do something with the totally depraved nature they have that they could not do *on their own*. Moreover, as you say yourself in framing your comment, the grace is resistible. So it has to do with the nature of the grace that is dispensed, not the nature of the person who encounters the grace. Believing cannot show that someone was not totally depraved if the grace is enabling yet resistible.

    • Derek

      Hi “wm”, when I associated the phrase “total depravity” with “heresy” I was speaking as though I were a Calvinist (of whom such word and phrase associations are common, and from the perspective of the author of this post I surmise). I do not believe denying T-D is heresy.

      All the points of TULIP are as you say, except perhaps the “T”. Classical Arminians reject ULIP while maintaining the T. They happen to share the Calvinist view of prevenient grace, but believe that grace to be universal and conditional (as I’m sure you are well aware).

    • Andrew

      This is made up theology. There is an election in the Bible, but you aren’t recognizing it as it appears in the Bible, though it is clear. You are simply putting forward as doctrine the teachings of men.

      If we were to go looking for ‘The Election’ in the Bible we’d look for something like “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. An assertion like that, and not much else, sounds exactly like God choosing His elect, a people to be a particular possession [Deut 7:6][Psa 135:4].

      Strangely, that exact election took place, but it was given exclusively to the House of Israel and the House of Judah [Exo 6:7][Jer 7:23][Jer 11:4][Jer 30:22][Eze 36:28].

      Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and robber.” Unless Christians are the House of Israel or the House of Judah, they have no right to claim an election that doesn’t belong to them. They are entering the sheepfold by another way.

      Any theology of election then, is merely Christian fluff, since it is not Biblically sound. Although the New Covenant clearly speaks of the ‘elect’ notice to whom the New covenant was promised [Jer 31:31] (also quoted in [Heb 8:8]). It was promised to the House of Israel and the House of Judah.

      Notice also, that God set the duration of this New Covenant promise to the House of Israel, and the House of Judah (in [Jer 31:35-36]), to be true as long as the moon’s orbit was fixed, as long as the sun shines, and as long as the ocean roars. In other words, Israel was to be an everlasting possession [Gen 48:4].

      Notice also, who Jesus understood His ‘elect’ to be [Matt 10:6][Matt 15:24]. Somehow Christian’s ignore all of this and speak of an election as though there were two. There is only one.

      I think it wise, before answering theological questions about the nature of ‘election’, Christian’s should first start by recognizing the election as it…

    • wm tanksley

      Hi “wm”, […] I do not believe denying T-D is heresy.

      Okay. I don’t understand the point of your argument, then.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Arminian said: “So it has to do with the nature of the grace that is dispensed, not the nature of the person who encounters the grace. Believing cannot show that someone was not totally depraved if the grace is enabling yet resistible.

      The fact that some respond to the grace and some do not means there is inequality of outcomes. This inequality is either due to differences in the grace applied, or differences in the sinner to whom the grace is applied. Since Arminians normally base the doctrine of prevenient grace on the need for God to give a fair chance to all, this means that the difference could not be in different grace being supplied; that would imply that the grace supplied to those who DID accept was in fact irresistible. Therefore, the difference must be in the sinners; the ones who submit must be more willing to respond to grace, and therefore (in fact and deed) better people than the ones who did not respond.

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      wm tanksley (November 1, 2010 at 11:47 am) said: “the difference must be in the sinners; the ones who submit must be more willing to respond to grace, and therefore (in fact and deed) better people than the ones who did not respond.”

      **** The difference is indeed with the sinners. (BTW, this does not provide ground for legitimate boasting since faith, as Scripture makes clear, precludes legitimate boasting; see Rom 3 and 4 e.g.) But this in no way implies that the sinner who responds positively to the gospel had a different general nature than the one who did not, let alone “better”. That is a question-begging assumption born of compatibilism, and so a totally fallacious line of reasoning IMO. There can be 2 people, e.g., whose natures are the exact same and yet precludes them from lifting a million pound weight. But someone can assist them so that the both are enabled to lift the weight with the assistance provided if they lift (the assistance won’t lift it by itself, and the person cannot lift it on his own; but he can lift it with the assistance). This does not change the person’s nature. It is assistance from another source that enables the person to do the thing in question.

      The disagreement is over your claim that the person who accepts God’s grace cannot be totally depraved, which is a claim that he cannot be in a state that keeps him from believing *on his own*. By definition, the Arminian view defies your claim, since it believes the person cannot believe *on his own*.

    • Arminian

      Continuing last comment:

      But it is interesting that you must think you are better than unbelievers and that your godly actions reveal that you are better than others who don’t do the same actions. It sort of reminds one of the proud Pharisee’s line of thinking (not that you are specifically rpoud) in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector: “The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers – or even like this tax collector” (Luke18:11; the NET translation in honor of this site). Notice he gives all the credit to God for the way he is, yet Jesus condemns his attitude nonetheless.

      It also seems that you would have to apply that same logic to any act of yours in relation to other believers. So when you act better than fellow believers, it is because you have a better nature than they? That is also patently unbiblical. It would seem that your line of reasoning here just does not hold up.

    • wm tanksley

      But it is interesting that you must think you are better than unbelievers and that your godly actions reveal that you are better than others who don’t do the same actions.

      Well said!

      But I didn’t say I think that. I said that if I didn’t credit salvation entirely to God, I would have to think that it was partially due to me. Why else would some people accept God’s offer and some not? Or is it totally random?

      And note that the difference between the publican and the Pharasee isn’t primarily the Pharasee’s arrogance or about his crediting his superiority to God; it’s the fact that the publican walks away justified. This is a parable about repentance for the forgiveness of sin, not a parable about how bad it is to be arrogant. Even a Pharasee will be saved if he repents.

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      I said: “But it is interesting that you must think you are better than unbelievers and that your godly actions reveal that you are better than others who don’t do the same actions.”

      wm tanksley (November 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm) said: “But I didn’t say I think that. I said that if I didn’t credit salvation entirely to God, I would have to think that it was partially due to me.”

      I don’t see where you said that in conversation with me. But you did imply what I said of you. Look at your reasoning; you said: “the difference must be in the sinners; the ones who submit must be more willing to respond to grace, and therefore (in fact and deed) better people than the ones who did not respond.”

      Your reasoning here–and it is your reasoning, certainly not mine or typical Arminian–implies that you think that responding positively to God’s grace means someone is in fact and in deed better than the ones who did not respond.

      wm tanksley said: “And note that the difference between the publican and the Pharasee isn’t primarily the Pharasee’s arrogance or about his crediting his superiority to God; it’s the fact that the publican walks away justified. This is a parable about repentance for the forgiveness of sin, not a parable about how bad it is to be arrogant.”

      That’s an interesting take when the text actually tells us it has to do with arrogance: “Jesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9; NET). Moreover, the parable make it clear that the tax collector was humble, especially in contrast to the proud Pharisee. The parable certainly is about repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But it is also clearly about how humility (and implicitly, its concomitant, faith) is foundational for repentance, while pride is miles away from repentance and the forgiveness it finds with God. The spirit of this text is at odds with what it seemed you were implying (see above).

    • Arminian

      By the way, wm tanksley, I think I see what you were intending now, though not stated explicitly in your discussion with me I think, that if God does not irresistibly cause a person’s positive response, then in your view it would come from the person alone and make that person better. But that assumes your whole Calvinistic/deterministic point of view and essentially begs the question again if it was meant to support your point of view, a point I have already addressed.

    • wm tanksley

      Arminian: I’m glad you see what I’m saying now. Your error was in assuming that I was boasting about myself, when I was actually stating a consequence of Arminianism as it’s often held: that if one decides that one is saved from judgement by a good action while another isn’t due to lack of good action, then one should be judged praiseworthy while another should be condemned.

      This is a fundamental aspect of many people’s view of Arminianism, and it follows whenever people adopt it in order to avoid a perceived “unfairness”, an accusation that’s often levelled against the doctrines of free Grace: that God is unjust to judge people when those people were not able to obey His perfect Law. Whenever you hear that “should implies can” to protest against humanity’s moral inability, you’re hearing the seed of this fallacy.

      I don’t believe that this fallacy is universal among Arminians; it seems that way to a Calvinist because the argument is reflexively employed as a defense against Calvinism without realizing what it implies.

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      wm tanksley (November 3, 2010 at 6:37 pm),

      Your comments were sort of odd. While I indicated I understood what you were saying, I also indicated that your comments were question-begging and erroneous.

    • wm tanksley

      Arminian, you may think my comments odd, question-begging, and erroneous; but I’d say you need to show that about my comments, not just say it.

      It looks as though your comments have been directed against a simple miscommunication between us: you read that I was taking credit for my salvation, when I was actually trying to explain why a typical use of a particular Arminian argument resulted in contradiction to the Bible’s explanation of grace.

      So now that miscommunication is dispelled; whether my comments are “sort of odd” or not, the “error” you thought you’d found wasn’t actually there.

      So now it’s time to move on; either say “well, I’m glad you’re not making that particular error”, or point out a different error so we can discuss it.

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      wm tanksley (November 4, 2010 at 8:07 am),

      What I thought odd about your comments is that they came off as if my indicating that I understood what you were saying signalled agreement with you. What I indicated was that I understood what you were saying, but that I disagreed with you and that your comments begged the question.

      It seems like our conversation has become unfocused or something. Perhaps I should refocus it by trying to put the original matter of disagreement as simply as possible and as I stated it earlier:

      The disagreement is over your claim that the person who accepts God’s grace cannot be totally depraved, which is a claim that he cannot be in a state that keeps him from believing *on his own*. By definition, the Arminian view defies your claim, since it believes the person cannot believe *on his own*.

    • wm tanksley

      The disagreement is over your claim that the person who accepts God’s grace cannot be totally depraved, which is a claim that he cannot be in a state that keeps him from believing *on his own*. By definition, the Arminian view defies your claim, since it believes the person cannot believe *on his own*.

      It’s fine to say that man can’t believe on his own. That’s correct. But your soteriology is based on a grace that is uniformly spread so that man CAN believe without any further help. Man’s total depravity is for you a legal fiction — it’s something that’s true, but has no impact whatsoever to any man at any time.

      This view also ignores the fact that obeying God’s call (accepting God’s grace) is a GOOD action, not a morally neutral one. It’s a good response to grace, the right thing to do. The bad thing for one to do is to resist the grace — you’d be rightly condemned for that.

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      wm tanksley said: “It’s fine to say that man can’t believe on his own. That’s correct. But your soteriology is based on a grace that is uniformly spread so that man CAN believe without any further help.

      **** First, that’s not true that my or Arminian soteriology necessarily holds grace to be uniformly spread. Nevertheless, it does hold that man can believe with the help of the grace that is given to each man when such grace is given. But even if it did believe it to be uniformly spread, your point that it enables man to believe without *further help* is completely without force. So what? That doesn’t negate that it is the grace of the Lord that enables the belief. Therefore, you have no grounds to say that Arminian theology holds that people can believe on their own. It is of no effect to claim, “even though they get God’s grace to enable them to believe, they don’t get more extra grace from him on top of that.” So what? Your claim amounts to saying that Arminian theology has people believing on their own. That is just not the case by your own tacit admission (note your own use of the words “further help”). Hence, Arminian theology is not at odds with the doctrine of total depravity in the least.

      wm tanksley said: “Man’s total depravity is for you a legal fiction — it’s something that’s true, but has no impact whatsoever to any man at any time.”

      **** This statement is also not true. Total depravity has pkenty of real life effect in the view of Arminian view. Moreover, even with respect to belief, the fact that God has to take the initiative and has to dispense prevenient grace also negates your statement. Since real life, actual action is taken by God to overcome total depravity’s barring of people from believing, it cannot be said to be a legal fiction.

    • Arminian

      Continued from last post:

      wm tanksley said: “This view also ignores the fact that obeying God’s call (accepting God’s grace) is a GOOD action, not a morally neutral one. It’s a good response to grace, the right thing to do. The bad thing for one to do is to resist the grace — you’d be rightly condemned for that.”

      **** This is another incorrect statement. The Arminian view does not ignore this point. Rather, it simply points out that Scripture makes clear that faith is not a meritorious action and that it precludes boasting by its very nature as the reception of a free gift and as focusing all glory on its object (Christ/God). Therefore, your point here also is of no effect. Moreover, accepting God’s grace is a good, non-meritorious action that is enabled by God. So it is again not something one does on his own, but by God’s grace.

    • wm tanksley

      First, that’s not true that my or Arminian soteriology necessarily holds grace to be uniformly spread.

      I quickly and easily found several Arminian churches that do so believe; I’ve debated many who make that a central point against Calvinism. I’ve never met or found any who don’t. I don’t have a problem with that; I’ve just never seen it before. I’m curious why your doctrine of prevenient grace leaves gaps. Does God choose people to NOT give grace to?

      Nevertheless, it does hold that man can believe with the help of the grace that is given to each man when such grace is given. But even if it did believe it to be uniformly spread, your point that it enables man to believe without *further help* is completely without force. So what? That doesn’t negate that it is the grace of the Lord that enables the belief.

      Keep in mind that I’m not attempting to claim that the Arminian doctrine of resistible prevenient grace is false. I’m only showing that it’s not compatible with the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. Arminians have a doctrine called Total Depravity; and Augustinians have a doctrine called Prevenient Grace. But Augustinian Prevenient Grace is irresistible (and thus is NOT the same doctrine as that known by the same name for the Arminians), and Arminian Total Depravity is also conquered even for unsaved humans to the point that they can make a free decision to honor God (and this is not the same as Calvinist’s Total Depravity).

      I’m not saying it’s a wrong doctrine. I’m saying it’s a different doctrine with the same name.

    • wm tanksley

      The Arminian view does not ignore this point. Rather, it simply points out that Scripture makes clear that faith is not a meritorious action and that it precludes boasting by its very nature as the reception of a free gift and as focusing all glory on its object (Christ/God).

      I deny that “Scripture makes clear that faith is not a meritorious action.” Faith is nowhere or in any way in the Bible described as without merit. Faith — saving faith, the sort that is living — is meritorious. Only dead faith has no merit, and dead faith is in no way related to the Christian life. The promises of salvation are conditioned on faith; faith makes it possible to please God. If a man were to have faith, and God were to NOT save that man, God would be unjust, because the man had merited salvation, according to a number of promises.

      Grace, on the other hand, is clearly and repeatedly described as not based on merit. Its definition is purely non-meritorious. Grace that’s conditioned on some prior action by the recipient is a contradiction in terms. “Otherwise grace is no more grace.” God does not give grace based on any action or merit; in particular, He does not give grace in response to our faith.

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      Sorry, I missed your respsonses until recently.’

      Wm said: “I quickly and easily found several Arminian churches that do so believe; I’ve debated many who make that a central point against Calvinism. I’ve never met or found any who don’t. I don’t have a problem with that; I’ve just never seen it before. I’m curious why your doctrine of prevenient grace leaves gaps. Does God choose people to NOT give grace to?”

      **** Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by “uniformly”. I took you to mean that all people get the exact same amount of grace or something like that. God gives his grace to all. But there are differences among Arminians about prevenient grace, however that’s another topic.

      Wm said: “Keep in mind that I’m not attempting to claim that the Arminian doctrine of resistible prevenient grace is false. I’m only showing that it’s not compatible with the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. Arminians have a doctrine called Total Depravity; and Augustinians have a doctrine called Prevenient Grace. But Augustinian Prevenient Grace is irresistible (and thus is NOT the same doctrine as that known by the same name for the Arminians), and Arminian Total Depravity is also conquered even for unsaved humans to the point that they can make a free decision to honor God (and this is not the same as Calvinist’s Total Depravity).

      I’m not saying it’s a wrong doctrine. I’m saying it’s a different doctrine with the same name.”

      **** Ok, but that is not how theologians typically define the doctrine of TD. It has a more basic definition that Arminians and Calvinists agree on (that sin impacts every aspect of the person), but construe its implications differently along the lines you outline here. Moreover, as I said, you have no grounds to say that Arminian theology holds that people can believe on their own. It is of no effect to claim, “even though they get God’s grace to enable them to believe, they don’t get more extra grace from him on top of that.” So what?…

    • Arminian

      Sorry, Wm, I didn’t see your last responses until recently.

      Wm said: “I quickly and easily found several Arminian churches that do so believe; I’ve debated many who make that a central point against Calvinism. I’ve never met or found any who don’t. I don’t have a problem with that; I’ve just never seen it before. I’m curious why your doctrine of prevenient grace leaves gaps. Does God choose people to NOT give grace to?”

      **** Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by “uniformly”. I took you to mean that all people get the exact same amount of grace or something like that. God gives his grace to all. But there are differences among Arminians about prevenient grace, however that’s another topic.

      Wm said: “Keep in mind that I’m not attempting to claim that the Arminian doctrine of resistible prevenient grace is false. I’m only showing that it’s not compatible with the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. Arminians have a doctrine called Total Depravity; and Augustinians have a doctrine called Prevenient Grace. But Augustinian Prevenient Grace is irresistible (and thus is NOT the same doctrine as that known by the same name for the Arminians), and Arminian Total Depravity is also conquered even for unsaved humans to the point that they can make a free decision to honor God (and this is not the same as Calvinist’s Total Depravity).

      I’m not saying it’s a wrong doctrine. I’m saying it’s a different doctrine with the same name.”

      **** Ok, but that is not how theologians typically define the doctrine of TD. It has a more basic definition that Arminians and Calvinists agree on (that sin impacts every aspect of the person), but construe its implications differently along the lines you outline here.

    • Arminian

      Conitnuing from my last post:

      Moreover, as I said, you have no grounds to say that Arminian theology holds that people can believe on their own. It is of no effect to claim, “even though they get God’s grace to enable them to believe, they don’t get more extra grace from him on top of that.” So what? Your claim amounts to saying that Arminian theology has people believing on their own. That is just not the case by your own tacit admission (note your own use of the words “further help”).

    • Arminian

      Wm, said: “I deny that “Scripture makes clear that faith is not a meritorious action.” Faith is nowhere or in any way in the Bible described as without merit. Faith — saving faith, the sort that is living — is meritorious. Only dead faith has no merit, and dead faith is in no way related to the Christian life. The promises of salvation are conditioned on faith; faith makes it possible to please God. If a man were to have faith, and God were to NOT save that man, God would be unjust, because the man had merited salvation, according to a number of promises.”

      **** This is simply shocking and at odds with standard Reformed, and indeed both Calvinist and Arminian thought, and even more broadly, Protestant thought. Faith is not meritorious. It does not earn anything. It receives a free gift. Romans 3 and 4 are pretty definitive on this for just one place in Scripture. From what you say here, you seem to think that we earn salvation by our faith, but that only those God graces to do so earn salvation. That is beyond unsound in terms of doctrine. Even John Piper teaches that faith is not meritorious. He explains here:

      http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/is-faith-meritorious (Or check out this sermon by him, which deals more with the text of Scripture: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1999/1081_Justification_by_Faith_is_the_End_of_Boasting/; or this one: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1980/249_How_Is_It_Right_to_Justify_the_Ungodly/). Or, given the site we are on, as Dan Wallace explains in his grammar: “On an exegetical level, I am inclined to agree with Lincoln that “in Paul’s thinking faith can never be viewed as a meritorious work because in connection with justification he always contrasts faith with works of the law (cf. Gal 2:16; 3:2-5, 9, 10; Rom 3:27, 28)” (A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians [WBC] 111)” (p. 335 note 53).

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Grace, on the other hand, is clearly and repeatedly described as not based on merit. Its definition is purely non-meritorious. Grace that’s conditioned on some prior action by the recipient is a contradiction in terms. “Otherwise grace is no more grace.” God does not give grace based on any action or merit; in particular, He does not give grace in response to our faith.”

      **** Both grace and faith are non-meritorious and fully intertwined. Of course God gives grace in response to any number of things, particularly faith. Is not salvation an expression of God’s grace? Indeed, faith gives us access to God’s grace! As Rom 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand . . .” (NET). Moreover, faith makes reception of the promise to be by grace (Rom 4:16). God gives blessing in response to faith, and this is grace precisely because faith receives a free gift.

    • wm tanksley

      Hey, cool — thanks for the response.

      I’m glad to see I was just misunderstanding you on the extent of prevenient grace under Arminianism. Thanks for clearing that up. (It’s made some of my discussions very difficult, since I couldn’t assume that the person I was talking to believed prevenient grace applied to all mankind!)

      I’ll keep your replies in my queue; hopefully I can clear up some of my OWN miscommunications. I hope you’re watching this through an RSS reader so you don’t have to check every day :-/. It’ll take me a while to get to them, since I’m swamped.

      -Wm

    • Andre

      Hi Dan,

      You bring up Norman Geisler. In his book “Chosen But Free”, Dr. Geisler states that his flavor of “moderate” Calvinism is representative of other key dispensationalists like “L. Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, C.C. Ryrie”. [CBF, 54, 257]. Do you agree?

    • wm tanksley

      Arminian, you’re right to observe that faith is always contrasted to the works of the law; but I still have to insist that if faith is something that we are responsible to bring about in ourselves, it is a work; and if it is a work, it is meritorious. Because Arminians insist that humans are responsible to produce a right response to grace (by the response of faith), therefore humans are asked to perform a good work (to bring about faith in response to God’s grace) in order to be saved.
      Calvinists agree with you that faith is not a meritorious work, not because faith isn’t a right response, but rather because it is not a response at all, but rather a creation of God. There is no effort of will one can make to go from not believing that “God exists and rewards those who seek Him” to believing that. The natural man cannot see the things of God. The sort of belief that a natural man can simply conjure up isn’t faith; it’s something less.

    • wm tanksley

      Man, it’s hard to respond in only 1000 letters. I wanted to also thank you for decrying the heresy I left open in my previous comment — the heresy that faith wins salvation because it is a meritorious work of man. I meant to be controversial, but I didn’t intend to leave THAT open. I do believe that faith is meritorious, but I do not believe it does, in fact, originate in man; it is rather a gift, and is ours only because it is given.

    • wm tanksley

      Andre, I hope you get a response; I’m curious too. I loaned out my copy of “The Potter’s Freedom”, so I don’t remember whether White responded in that. I personally don’t think it makes a difference to Wallace’s point, but it is an interesting question.

    • wm tanksley

      Ok, but that is not how theologians typically define the doctrine of TD. It has a more basic definition that Arminians and Calvinists agree on (that sin impacts every aspect of the person), but construe its implications differently along the lines you outline here.

      I do agree entirely that Arminians generally claim Total Depravity as one of their doctrines. I admit, further, that some thoughtful Calvinists have accepted that claim, and I assume that they did so after careful study. Thus, the evidence is well on your side.

      I just don’t understand it at all.

      How can one claim that “sin impacts every aspect of the person”, and at the same time claim that man is at liberty to choose or reject God, without impact from that depravity? It seems to me that this absolutely requires man’s will to be partially healed of depravity.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      Wm,

      “man is at liberty to choose or reject God”

      It might be more accurate to say prevenient grace enables us to accept God’s choosing of us as opposed to enabling us to simply choose God outright.

    • wm tanksley

      Graciously said, Michael! I like that a lot. This matches much better with the Arminian model of salvation than my statement did, from my biased understanding.

      I think my objection remains, though: the effect of prevenient grace is precisely to indiscriminately undo the “totality” of total depravity. I’m not saying that’s bad; I’m saying that it doesn’t make sense to me to assert that one holds the doctrine of “total depravity”, but then mention that no human has ever actually lived in a state of actual total depravity, because God retroactively removed it.

      As one of the greats once said: “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Arminian, you’re right to observe that faith is always contrasted to the works of the law; but I still have to insist that if faith is something that we are responsible to bring about in ourselves, it is a work; and if it is a work, it is meritorious.”

      **** Surely you do not deny that it is we who believe, right? God does not believe for us. Moreover, surely you agree that we are responsible to believe, right? The Arminian position does not hold that we are responsible to bring about faith in ourselves. We cannot believe on our own. We need God’s help to be able to believe. And our believing is done by his strength. But it is not he who believes. We actually believe. But in any case, faith is simply not meritorious because it does not do anything to earn that which it receives, but receives a free gift. Paul is clear in Rom 4:4-5. By its very nature, faith is non-meritorious. See the next post.

    • Arminian

      Continued from last post:

      Your reasoning would suggest that receiving a free gift is actually meriting the gift. That seems absurd.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Because Arminians insist that humans are responsible to produce a right response to grace (by the response of faith), therefore humans are asked to perform a good work (to bring about faith in response to God’s grace) in order to be saved.”

      **** But Arminians do not “insist that humans are responsible to produce a right response to grace”. We are responsible to respond rightly. That might sound like nitpicking, but the language you are using seems framed specifically to paint the act of trusting as a work that is produced. But Scripture (and common sense) are clear that while trusting is an act, it is not a “work” in the theological-biblical sense.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Calvinists agree with you that faith is not a meritorious work, not because faith isn’t a right response, but rather because it is not a response at all, but rather a creation of God.”

      ***** Ok, here it seems your position is so obviously wrong that just pointing it out should make it’s error clear for most people. You are claiming that faith is not a response to God’s word? You make it seem that faith is not a human act or something we do. We may have to agree to disagree because of the utterly basic nature of the assertion that faith is something we do (which Calvinists generally agree with; you would be extremely unusual to deny this point Arminians and Calvinists agree on ) and that it is a response to God and his word. It can be demonstrated from Scripture pretty easily, e.g., “and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:30-31).

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “There is no effort of will one can make to go from not believing that “God exists and rewards those who seek Him” to believing that.”

      **** It is not a matter of “effort of will”, but it is is a matter of God enabling us to believe without forcing us to believe (or irresistibly causing us to believe if you prefer).

      Wm said: “The natural man cannot see the things of God. The sort of belief that a natural man can simply conjure up isn’t faith; it’s something less.”

      **** But God is powerful enough to enable the natural man to see the things of God. Moreover, the natural man does not conjure up faith. God resistibly incites faith in the natural man. He workls in such a way that the natural man may believe or continue not believing.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “I wanted to also thank you for decrying the heresy I left open in my previous comment — the heresy that faith wins salvation because it is a meritorious work of man. I meant to be controversial, but I didn’t intend to leave THAT open. I do believe that faith is meritorious, but I do not believe it does, in fact, originate in man; it is rather a gift, and is ours only because it is given.”

      **** But you do not rescue yourself from heresy here. You in fact deny justification by faith. For your position has us doing something (believe) that merits salvation. It doesn’t matter if you think that God grants that action to us. You still have us doing something that merits salvation. On your view, there is no difference between faith and works in principle. For the thing that you think makes it ok for faith to be meritorious without any reason to boast is that God irresistibly causes faith. See the next post.

    • Arminian

      Continued from last post:

      But then on that reasoning, God could irresistibly cause us to do good works and save us by us doing good works without any substantial difference, since the only principle precluding boasting for you is God irresistibly causing our actions. This is would be a problem for you’re your view even if you recant your belief (which I must stress is in gross contradiction to Scripture and even Calvinism and Protestantism!) that faith is meritorious. But that view, ironically, sounds Roman Catholic!

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “How can one claim that “sin impacts every aspect of the person”, and at the same time claim that man is at liberty to choose or reject God, without impact from that depravity?”

      **** Well, there is no claim that ther is no impact from that depravity. But the important point is that God enables us to overcome that depravity, to do womething that our depravity would not otherwise allow us to do. He does not change our nature, but enables us to believe against our depravity. It is like a man who does not have it in him to lift 1 million pounds. If he was given enough assistance, he could lift that weight without the weight being lifted apart from his own action. The giving of assistance to him would not change his nature. It would simply be assistance enabling him to do what he could not do on his own. Now do not grasp on to the “effort” aspect of the illustration. It shows how someone can receive assistance (think prevenient grace) and yet not be changed in his nature.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “It seems to me that this absolutely requires man’s will to be partially healed of depravity.”

      **** Again, think assistance rather than a change in the person. Again, if you have a man who is crippled, and someone helps him to walk across the room. The man has not been healed, but helped.

    • Andre

      According to Robert P. Lightner, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at DTS,

      “Chosen but Free is by far the best presentation of the moderate Calvinist viewpoint in print. This book deserves wide distribution but more than that, wide reading as well.” BSAC 157:625 (Jan 2000)

      Does L. Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, C.C. Ryrie as well as the faculty of DTS share in Geisler’s flavor of Calvinism? Since the publication of CBF, I have not heard a concerted response from the faculty of the DTS or RCM. This concerns me.

    • wm tanksley

      “Surely you do not deny that it is we who believe, right? God does not believe for us.”

      Of course we believe. That’s why we’re called “believers”. But are you sure that’s not God’s work? After all (for example), we exist, and yet existence is God’s doing, not ours. And look at Phil. 2, especially 13; “it is God working in you both to will and to work”. (Both “works” in verse 13 are the same Greek word, although they’re often translated differently as “working … to do”.)

      The fact that we believe is something precious that we truly do own, and protect. But we did not begin believing because we willed ourself to start believing; rather, we began with the Spirit making belief possible; we cannot will ourselves to believe something against our own belief, and “the natural man does not see the things of God”.

      (1000 characters is hard.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      But in any case, faith is simply not meritorious because it does not do anything to earn that which it receives, but receives a free gift. Paul is clear in Rom 4:4-5. By its very nature, faith is non-meritorious. Your reasoning would suggest that receiving a free gift is actually meriting the gift. That seems absurd.

      But faith is good, and a lack of faith is an evil — a violation of the greatest commandment. Faith is a necessary condition to approach God. The fact that faith is so vastly less than covenant righteousness doesn’t mean that it’s not meritorious at all.

      You say later “while trusting is an act, it is not a work in the theological-biblical sense.” You’re right; it’s an act, but not a “work of the Law.” More to the point, it’s not fulfilling the entire law, which is the only way to merit Life through the Law.

      So faith can’t merit salvation; we agree. But faith is meritorious, and faith believes God, and the natural man doesn’t do that.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      But God is powerful enough to enable the natural man to see the things of God.

      Yes, He is.

      But you believe that God did this retroactively for all men, don’t you (since you believe that prevenient grace applies to the entire world)? Then who was Paul talking about when he wrote that verse (1 Cor 2:14)? Why would he write something about a type of man whom nobody could ever meet — a man with a simple incapability?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      But you do not rescue yourself from heresy here.

      THANK YOU for taking Christianity seriously and addressing it with honest terms. I disagree with your conclusion and will defend myself, but I agree that what you see as heresy is truly heresy.

      You in fact deny justification by faith. For your position has us doing something (believe) that merits salvation.

      No; faith doesn’t fulfill the entire covenantal Law, and so cannot merit the life that was promised to those who do completely fulfill it. Nonetheless, it is meritorious.

      More…

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      But then on that reasoning, God could irresistibly cause us to do good works and save us by us doing good works without any substantial difference, since the only principle precluding boasting for you is God irresistibly causing our actions.

      YES! When we do good works as Christians, our response should not be boasting, but rather should be fear and trembling — because it is GOD who works. Of course, if God saved us by that means He wouldn’t be “saving” us; rather, He’d be rendering us meritorious of Life. It seems likely that the unfallen angels are in that exact position. (Can the unfallen angels boast?)

      But that view, ironically, sounds Roman Catholic!

      Not at all — because the merit of faith isn’t a saving merit; it’s simply a merit, not itself salvific. Faith in God is part of what the Law demands (the first commandment). God’s grace provides everything the Law demands, including faith.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      It seems to me that faith and law are contrasted in the New Testament. They certainly are in the book of Romans. See Romans 10:4-6 for instance.

      I don’t see how you can conclude that faith is a part of the law. That doesn’t seem to work for me.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, Romans 10 speaks of the “righteousness based on faith”, which is my point: that faith is righteous. Faith, of course, isn’t inherently justifying; God’s work in justification is outside of us. But we are justified through our faith, and this is possible because faith is good.

      The contrast between faith and the Law is possible not because faith is FOREIGN to the Law, but because faith is PRIOR to the Law. The Law is good and just; and therefore it includes the requirement for faith in every line. Keeping the Law is how to please God; but without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore the keeping the Law must require faith. But knowing that faith is required does not give us faith; rather, it tells us that, like the rest of the Law, we cannot achieve it on our own, and we must fall on our knees and repent.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Well, there is no claim that ther is no impact from that depravity. But the important point is that God enables us to overcome that depravity, to do something that our depravity would not otherwise allow us to do.

      If God enables everyone, then there is nobody disabled.

      It is like a man who does not have it in him to lift 1 million pounds. If he was given enough assistance, he could lift that weight without the weight being lifted apart from his own action.

      But we CAN fulfill the Law: see Deuteronomy 30. It is perfectly possible, well within our physical and psychological ability, plainly evident to us. The problem is not that we cannot, or that it’s too much for us. The problem is that positively REBEL and reject it.

      Now, I understand that you’re being metaphoric; but it seems to me that your metaphor can’t stretch from “not morally strong enough” to “in active moral rebellion,” “blind to God,” and “dead.”

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      But we are justified through our faith, and this is possible because faith is good.

      Your line of reasoning here pretty much escapes me. This statement sounds to me like you are making faith the basis for our justification, not Christ’s sacrifice for us which is appropriated by our faith.

      BTW, I wonder what happened to the feature that turned Scripture references into a link? It doesn’t seem to be working.

    • wm tanksley

      Good questioning, Cheryl. No, I’m not saying faith is not an operator in our justification; it’s something more like a conduit. That’s why I used the word “through”.

      + Solus Christus: Christ alone enacts salvation
      + Sola gratia: by His graciousness alone
      + Sola fide: through our faith alone
      + Soli Deo gloria: for the glory of God alone
      + Sola scriptura: according to the Scriptures.

      (I used the word “graciousness” to emphasize the Reformed belief that God doesn’t offer grace as though grace were a thing we could take from him; rather, He acts graciously, and His gracious action is what saves us. To act graciously is to act without compulsion, freely, unobligated. The word “grace” is a wonderful word to use, but it’s been a bit diluted by traditional usage.)

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Of course we believe. That’s why we’re called “believers”. But are you sure that’s not God’s work?”

      **** Arminians believe it is God’s work. God works it in us, but not irresistibly. The point is that you were talking as if God

      Wm said: “After all (for example), we exist, and yet existence is God’s doing, not ours.”

      **** Not at all analogous, since “existing” has a passive sense. I am not saying that it is in the passive voice, but that it has a passive sense. It is not a specific action we take or perform. It’s like saying “I have eyes”. Possessing eyes is not an active thing we do, but trusting someone is something we choose to do. Accepting an offer, like the gospel offer, is an active thing and a choice. It is accepting a gift.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “And look at Phil. 2, especially 13″

      **** Yes, a good example of how God works such things in us resistibly, the Arminian view. Do we always will and work according to God’s good pleasure? No. We sin plenty in opposition to God’s working in us to will and to do. Indeed, Paul gives this assurance of God working in us as the reason to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. So Paul is urging us to yield to God’s work in us, i.e., “work out your salvation because God is working in you to do so; yield to his work in you, which will enable you to do what I am urging you to do, to work for God.” But the very use of this as a motivation for doing it implies that it is not irresistible. It supports the Arminian view. Paul is encouraging his readers that God is supplying them with the power to do what Paul commands them to do. It is like saying to someone, “Get whatever you want on the menu, because I am paying”, or “Do this job because I am giving you what you need to do…

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “The fact that we believe is something precious that we truly do own, and protect. But we did not begin believing because we willed ourself to start believing; rather, we began with the Spirit making belief possible;”

      **** That is the Arminian position. We do not begin believing because we merely will ourselves to start believing, but because the Spirit makes belief possible. Without that, we could not choose to believe (trust in Christ). However, he does not force us to believe. He does not irresistibly cause us to believe. He enables us to believe.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “But faith is good, and a lack of faith is an evil — a violation of the greatest commandment. Faith is a necessary condition to approach God. The fact that faith is so vastly less than covenant righteousness doesn’t mean that it’s not meritorious at all.”

      **** Faith is good, but not meritorious. It does not earn anything. As I said, faith is simply not meritorious because it does not do anything to earn that which it receives, but receives a free gift. Paul is clear, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:4-5). By its very nature, faith is non-meritorious. Your reasoning would suggest that receiving a free gift is actually meriting the gift. That seems absurd.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “You say later “while trusting is an act, it is not a work in the theological-biblical sense.” You’re right; it’s an act, but not a “work of the Law.” More to the point, it’s not fulfilling the entire law, which is the only way to merit Life through the Law.

      So faith can’t merit salvation; we agree. But faith is meritorious, and faith believes God, and the natural man doesn’t do that.”

      **** No, faith is not meritorious because it does not earn anything. Just because it is good does not make it earn God’s favor. Paul is clear, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:4-5).

    • Arminian

      Wm said: Yes, He is. But you believe that God did this retroactively for all men, don’t you (since you believe that prevenient grace applies to the entire world)? Then who was Paul talking about when he wrote that verse (1 Cor 2:14)? Why would he write something about a type of man whom nobody could ever meet — a man with a simple incapability?”

      **** I am glad that you agree that God is powerful enough to enable the natural man to see the things of God. Just because he enables people to believe the gospel when they hear it does not negate the fact that he has to work supernaturally for them to be able to believe. Every person that one meets is the type of person Paul mentions who cannot believe without God’s aid. Indicating this matches the truth and shows that no one can boast and gives glory to God.

    • Arminian

      But concerning 1 Cor 2:14, which you mentioned Wm, the natural man does not refer to unbelievers, but to anyone who is not submitting to the Spirit! The context is clear that Paul speaks to the Corinthian believers as unspiritual, fleshly people, who cannot understand the things of the Spirit, referring to advanced, mature Christian teaching. Paul says that he did not share such things of the Spirit with the Corinthians because they were fleshly and unspiritual, i.e. not submitting to the Spirit, and so unable to understand them. The things of the Spirit here does not refer to the gospel, which Paul had shared with them and they received. So Paul is not at all talking about unbelievers not being able to understand the gospel, but of anyone, particularly immature Christians who are not submitting to the Spirit, not being able to handle mature Christian teaching. See the next post for more . . . .

    • Arminian

      So 1 Cor 2:14 poses no problem for the Arminian view even with the idea that it speaks of unbelievers not being able to understand the gospel apart from the Spirit enabling them. The Arminian view holds that the Spirit must enable unbelievers to believe. But then, if one actually pays careful attention to the text, it turns out it is not even addressing that issue at all. So the Calvinist appeal to 1 Cor 2:14 fails doubly here.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: No; faith doesn’t fulfill the entire covenantal Law, and so cannot merit the life that was promised to those who do completely fulfill it. Nonetheless, it is meritorious.”

      **** We may have to just agree to disagree here. But I think I have the vast majority of evangelical thinking and common sense on my side here. I guess I will be repeating my self to go over it again at this point. So seem y comments above again. Suffice it to say here that you seem to think that accepting a free gift is really earning it (or perhaps you are saying it is not necessarily earning the whole gift, but it’s earning something), which goes against all biblical and common reason.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “YES! When we do good works as Christians, our response should not be boasting, but rather should be fear and trembling — because it is GOD who works. Of course, if God saved us by that means He wouldn’t be “saving” us; rather, He’d be rendering us meritorious of Life. It seems likely that the unfallen angels are in that exact position. (Can the unfallen angels boast?)”

      **** Ok, so you admit that on your view, there really is no difference between faith and works. Do you not see how your reasoning wholly contradicts Paul’s? For him, faith and works are sharply at odds because one works and earns whereas the other trusts/accepts, and does not earn, but receives a free gift. “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:4-5).

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Not at all — because the merit of faith isn’t a saving merit; it’s simply a merit, not itself salvific.”

      **** Then what does it merit? Scripture is clear that faith does not merit but receives a free gift. You seem to be insisting on your opinion about what makes for merit and boasting rather than allowing God’s word to define this for us.

      Wm said: “Faith in God is part of what the Law demands (the first commandment). God’s grace provides everything the Law demands, including faith.”

      **** But faith is not a work of the Law! That is undeniable and something you yourself admit. And while God’s grace provides what the Law demands, it does not do so unconditionally nor irresistibly. God enables us to believe but does not force us to do so. He enables us to obey, but does not force us to obey.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “If God enables everyone, then there is nobody disabled.”

      **** That does not follow in the least. Total depravity is about human nature as sinful and incapable in and of itself. If every disabled person receives assistance to function in spite of their disability, their disability has not somehow gone away nor has their disabled nature changed. They simply get assistance to do what their disability precludes them from doing on their own. As I said,

      It is like a man who does not have it in him to lift 1 million pounds. If he was given enough assistance, he could lift that weight without the weight being lifted apart from his own action.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “But we CAN fulfill the Law: see Deuteronomy 30. It is perfectly possible, well within our physical and psychological ability, plainly evident to us. The problem is not that we cannot, or that it’s too much for us. The problem is that positively REBEL and reject it.”

      **** Precisely because of the doctrine of total depravity, I would say that Deuteronomy 30 presumes God’s enabling grace. It is not saying, you can keep the Law on your own, but you can keep the Law (by God’s grace). It is similar to Paul saying that no one seeks for God. Obviously people do seek for God. But what Paul means is that no one seeks for God on his own. God must work in us for us to be able to seek for him. God must take the initiative. But it is a little surprising to hear you say that we can keep the Law. That contradicts normal Calvinist doctrine. Your position is that we can keep the Law? (I believe I know why you said what you did, but will allow you to state it rather than doing it for you.)

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “Now, I understand that you’re being metaphoric; but it seems to me that your metaphor can’t stretch from “not morally strong enough” to “in active moral rebellion,” “blind to God,” and “dead.””

      **** Well, I wasn’t really using a metaphor, but an analogy. (But I don’t see why you don’t think it would stretch as a metaphor given the way Scripture uses the metaphors you mentioned rather than the way that Calvinists tend to take them.) The point is a relatively simple one. Just as one’s nature is not changed by receiving help to do something, so the totally depraved human nature is not changed by receiving help to do what it could not do on its own.

    • wm tanksley

      A quick recap:

      My fundamental claim is that Arminianism collapses if the response that we have to the grace of the Spirit is a good work, since Arminianism distinctively claims that this response is something for which we are responsible (contra Calvinism, which claims that it is NOT our responsibility).

      But think about it… What IS a complete keeping of the law? It’s clear that a complete keeping of the law would please God and be sinless, but without faith it is impossible to please God, and whatever is done outside of faith is sin. Therefore a complete keeping of the Law (which is the only way to keep the Law) includes complete faith.

      Furthermore, what is the nature of the response? Is it not to “draw near to God” and to “diligently seek Him”? And isn’t this pleasing to God? True, it’s not faith that “draws near” or “seeks” (faith isn’t doing); but this must be done in faith, and if this doesn’t happen there never was any faith.

      (more) -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Thus we see that the response to the Holy Spirit is a righteous work, in fact the first righteous work the soul ever undertakes. It is not a work of the Law, since repentance from willful sin is not a work of the Law (look — there is no sacrifice to cover willful sin); but it is righteous in a sense older than and superior to the Law.

      But since our righteousness is not of ourselves, and in particular the righteousness by which we are saved is not of ourselves, so also our response to the Holy Spirit (that response is righteous!) cannot be of ourselves, and therefore cannot be (in particular) “up to us”. If it were up to us, then we would have some reason to boast, not above the Holy Spirit, but rather above the unbelievers, who did not do that work of righteousness even though they were fully enabled.

      -Wm (I wanted to clarify – your previous posts are good and deserve a response.)

    • wm tanksley

      Well, I wasn’t really using a metaphor, but an analogy.

      Then you built an analogy that is not analogical. Man is physically incapable of lifting 1000 tons; the weight would shatter bones, tear muscles. The thing that can lift 1000 tons is not a man. But man is physically capable of fulfilling the Law (and more to the point, man lacks nothing that would make fulfilling the law impossible). The Law was made for man; it is customized for our condition. And Christ came as a man to fulfill the Law: He was like us in every way, save without sin.

      The reason we do not obey the Law is that it is from God, and we hate Him. Your 1000 ton weight? We want to shove it into the floor, not lift it up. The Holy Spirit holding out His arms to help us lift it? We would crucify Him as well if we could. We DID crucify the Second Person, after all.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Oh my William, do you realize what you just said??

      But man is physically capable of fulfilling the Law (and more to the point, man lacks nothing that would make fulfilling the law impossible). The Law was made for man; it is customized for our condition. And Christ came as a man to fulfill the Law: He was like us in every way, save without sin.”

      After all of this time you are telling us that man lacks nothing that would keep us from fulfilling the law? What ever happened to total depravity? You know that condition we are all in that makes it impossible to do anything but sin because that is our nature and impossible to seek God in any way?

      Maybe I am totally missing your point here. But if you said what to all appearances you just said, you surely did say a mouthful for a Calvinist!!

    • Arminian

      Wm, it surely is analogical. When dealing with analogies, it is critical to pay attention to the point of the analogy and what is being compared, rather than objecting to peripheral elements of the analogy. It is a common and critical mistake with regard to assessing analogies. The point of the analogy is that doing something with help does not necessarily change a person’s nature, which undoes your argument that Arminian doctrine implicitly contradicts total depravity.

    • Arminian

      So Wm, you now seem to be denying the concept of total depravity yourself, which is often termed by Calvinists as being total inability (to believe or do anything spiritually good). You say we are able to keep the Law. So I wonder if we should leave this conversation off. It started with me responding to your charges against Arminianism holding to total depravity, but now you are basically denying the concept yourself. And you do not seem to agree with mainstream Calvinism (though I suspect that you may be using typical Calvinist double speak). I disagree that we can fulfill the Law on our own, but hold that we need God’s grace. Arminianism really embodies the biblical doctrines of grace. It is interesting that it is the Calvinist who seems to be inflating man’s ability and shortchanging grace.

    • wm tanksley

      Precisely because of the doctrine of total depravity, I would say that Deuteronomy 30 presumes God’s enabling grace.

      This is half true. The Law itself cannot be fulfilled without faith in God and God’s grace. But God nowhere says that He sends enabling grace on everyone; thus, you cannot make this passage teach a doctrine that NO passage mentions.

      But it is a little surprising to hear you say that we can keep the Law. That contradicts normal Calvinist doctrine. Your position is that we can keep the Law? (I believe I know why you said what you did, but will allow you to state it rather than doing it for you.

      Yes, we can. I affirm that because it’s what the Bible says; denying it would contradict many Biblical passages. The Bible also says that we do not fulfill the Law, and that our “righteousnesses” are uncleanness. The question is, then, why we do not fulfill something that we can fulfill; the Bible says that this is because we hate the Light.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      You have still denied the doctrine of Total Depravity by saying that we can. The “T” in “Tulip” that sets the foundation for your whole Calvinist theology.

      Are you a Calvinist or are you not? Here I have spent years talking to you and you have defended Calvinism to the hilt! Now you are denying it’s first tenet? You have certainly left my head spinning!! 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      After all of this time you are telling us that man lacks nothing that would keep us from fulfilling the law? What ever happened to total depravity?

      Total depravity says that man is corrupted throughout, not that man is missing something. We can see in the Biblical text what impact this depravity has: it does not make it impossible to DO the deeds the Law requires (Rom 2:4, for example, says that even Gentiles do the works of the Law), but it ensures, first, that we rebel against them; second, that even conformance to the words is tainted by our rejection of God to the extent that our works are loathsome to God; and finally that we typically fail to perform them adequately.

      The last point fits Arminian’s analogy — the Holy Spirit does help us accomplish something that we’re trying to do but can’t quite figure out, or can’t muster the strength for. Total depravity affects those things too, and the Holy Spirit helps us in those ways. But “help” isn’t enough for…

    • wm tanksley

      … for rebellion.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Guys, I see that I’m becoming hard to understand, and I apologize. I’ll be glad to try to clear things up; right now I’m just repeating myself, and you’re just telling me that I’m denying total depravity without interacting with my arguments. Now, of all people, I have the LEAST right to pretend to be offended by this (I started this entire thing by telling Arminian that I didn’t see how he could affirm Total Depravity, after all!!). So I’m not offended; I consider it fair play.

      But I would like to see more interaction with my arguments.

      Oh, also, Arminian, “(though I suspect that you may be using typical Calvinist double speak)” is not courteously spoken and should not have been said.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I’m still having a hard time believing what I am reading. For what you are now saying about total depravity is not what has ever been said by anyone about total depravity before that I have ever read. It has always been absolutely insisted upon that we can not do what God requires. Here is a defininition of total depravity that I found linked to from Monergism.com. It says:

      The Total Depravity of Humanity: Human beings are born sinners with a sinful nature we inherited from Adam. We are born condemned, and our personal actions and choices only worsen our condemnation. We are dead in our sins and trespasses against God and His law. We are slaves to sin. On our own, we can do nothing that pleases God or has any real spiritual value. This does not mean that we are all as bad as we can possibly be. God’s common grace restrains us
      from total chaos. Yet, we are thoroughly corrupted at every level of our being: mind, body, heart and soul…

    • cherylu

      Continued,

      That was the end of the quote. The bolding was mine. It is from here: http://www.monergism.com/ThreePillars.pdf

      And that is the way it has always been discussed here before. But now you are saying something altogether different.

    • cherylu

      William,

      You do remember how you started this conversation, don’t you? You said, But man is physically capable of fulfilling the Law (and more to the point, man lacks nothing that would make fulfilling the law impossible). The Law was made for man; it is customized for our condition.

      Seems to me that from everything I have ever heard about total depravity, he lacks everything for fulfilling the law because he is dead in sin and can only act according to that sin natue.

      I think this will take a lot of clarifying to get this one all put back together again!

    • Arminian

      Wm said: ““(though I suspect that you may be using typical Calvinist double speak)” is not courteously spoken and should not have been said”

      Oh, I’m sorry. I did not mean to suggest you were being deceptive. I guess “double speak” could give that impression. But it is a standard charge against Calvinism that its incoherence often drives its adherents to redefine terms and use them in contradictory ways. I suspected that that was taking place and that if we draw ouit the conversation long enough, you will be doing some heavy qualifying of your statements that will amount to something like, “we can keep Law, but we can’t the Law.” I should have expressed thatwithout using “double speak”.

      As for interacting woth your arguments, I believe I have been doing so *in detail*, until just recently, when you seemed to begin denying total depravity yourself and I suggested ending the conversation. It feels like it has become unfocused and veered too much from the original focus.

    • wm tanksley

      Arminian, thank you for your clarification. I would point out that a slur like that against an entire group should not be left implicit, but should either be made explicit or skipped entirely. The double meaning of “double-speak” didn’t occur to me — I could see that your intended target was all Calvinists and not myself in specific, which in my opinion is the indefensible part; accusation of sin should be made against persons and not in general.

      I agree completely that you had been dealing fully and fairly with my argument prior to my attempt to detail Total Depravity. We can stop chasing that rabbit if you’d like; I don’t mind. My point is simply that TD doesn’t mean that any single part of man is MISSING, but rather that every part and faculty is … bent. That twisting doesn’t mean that no part of the Law can be kept; rather, it means that we always sin. (to be continued)

    • wm tanksley

      It doesn’t mean that we are (metaphorically) physically incapable of lifting the weight of the Law; it means that we hate it, and we hate God; and when we DO try to keep it, we do so not because we believe God but because we want some other benefit. It’s also true that due to our depravity, when we try to keep it we’ll usually be more interested in something else, and therefore mess up our attempt.

      The reason I made this claim is that I wanted to point out the incompleteness and injustice of your analogy with lifting a 1000 ton weight. There are simply so many other reasons why we stand condemned by the Law — the most basic problem is NOT that the Law is TOO MUCH for us. The most basic problem is that we HATE goodness; the fact that we keep messing up isn’t because the Law is too heavy or complex, but rather because we don’t love God who authored it.

      …One more post, I think…

    • wm tanksley

      Now, look at John 9:41. If the Pharisees had been blind (unable to see the Light) they would not have been guilty of sin. Total Depravity therefore cannot mean that we are simply prohibited from doing some action by any condition. We can seek God; we can follow the Law. But our experience and the Bible reveals that we do NOT, and the Bible explains that we NEVER do (on this point our experience is sometimes deceptive). Original Sin explains the source and root of the problem; Total Depravity specifies that the scope of the problem is in the whole man, not in any one partition and not in any simple incapacity with respect to any attribute or command of God.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

      Also please read Romans 7:7 to the end of the chapter. It is pretty well summed up in verses 19 and 23: For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. and, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

      Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

      It certainly doesn’t sound to me like we are on capable of fulfilling God’s law as you have been saying. Do you read these verses and still think so?

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “The reason I made this claim is that I wanted to point out the incompleteness and injustice of your analogy with lifting a 1000 ton weight.”

      Wm, I already answered this. I mentoned that when dealing with analogies, it is critical to pay attention to the point of the analogy and what is being compared, rather than objecting to peripheral elements of the analogy. It is a common and critical mistake with regard to assessing analogies, which you are making here. The point of the analogy is that doing something with help does not necessarily change a person’s nature, which undoes your argument that Arminian doctrine implicitly contradicts total depravity because being aided to do something (believe) means a person’s nature has been changed.

      See the next post . . .

    • Arminian

      Continuing: Wm, you now claim, against standard Calvinist and Arminian doctrine, that man can believe on his own. But you should at least admit that Arminianism is self-consistent on this point and also concede the point that one can be aided to do something without his nature being changed (which seems a quite obvious point that is shown by my analogy, and could be shown by many more). If I remember correctly, your original claim that got this started off between us was that if someone is helped to believe then that removes total depravity, changes the person’s nature. It seems to me that I have soundly refuted that notion. It is another point if you want to take Arminian theology(and standard Calvinistic theology for that matter!) to task for holding that people cannot believe on their own, but need God’s grace to be able to do so. For me that’s another conversation, and one I don’t really want to get into now in this thread,

    • cherylu

      I see I made a rather large typo in my last comment. Hopefully people could tell what I meant in spite of it.

      I said, It certainly doesn’t sound to me like we are on capable of fulfilling God’s law as you have been saying. Do you read these verses and still think so?

      It should say, It certainly doesn’t sound to me like we are all capable of fulfilling God’s law as you have been saying. Do you read these verses and still think so?

    • wm tanksley

      “Wm, you now claim, against standard Calvinist and Arminian doctrine, that man can believe on his own.”

      Sorry, I need to finish a few things before I can reply, but I just wanted to apologize for having miscommunicated this (I don’t know where I said it, but since I’m trying to phrase this on my own, it’s likely that I messed up).

      Unless you meant only that man can believe in the same way demons do, that’s not what I meant. HOWEVER, just as the demons can believe in facts about God, so can sinful man. (I’m sure that’s not how you meant it, of course, and so I needed to correct the misunderstanding, and apologize for having miscommunicated.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      If I remember correctly, your original claim that got this started off between us was that if someone is helped to believe then that removes total depravity, changes the person’s nature.

      No. My point was that if EVERYONE is brought to the point of being able to believe, that removes the doctrine of Total Depravity as anything more than a metaphysical curiosity. There is simply nobody to whom it applies against salvation.

      To make this work, you have to accept the following, all of which I reject:

      1. TD extends only to making us too weak to turn to Jesus, NOT too wicked to desire Him.
      2. Coming to salvation does not involve morally praiseworthy actions on our part.
      3. Doing good with help isn’t praiseworthy.
      4. People can’t boast in doing good by comparing to others who have NOT done good in the same situation.

      (Good summary and nicely done reversion to the REAL topic, though. Thank you.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl: “It certainly doesn’t sound to me like we are all capable of fulfilling God’s law as you have been saying. Do you read these verses and still think so?”

      Thanks for asking — no, I don’t. I think there’s a distinction between doing the good works of the Law, and fulfilling the Law. The Law asks nothing of us that we are literally incapable of doing; but we are corrupted in a way that makes us never fulfill the Law.

      I should also add: because we are totally depraved, we are placed in bondage to sin, which makes us slaves to it and dead to righteousness. I’m honestly not sure how this works with our human nature, but I avoid using that term. I don’t want to locate human sin in the human nature, because that would SEEM to falsely imply than Adam and Jesus did not have a fully human nature like ours. I’m not a philosopher, so I’m not sure about that and don’t want to tangle with it.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Thanks for asking — no, I don’t. I think there’s a distinction between doing the good works of the Law, and fulfilling the Law. The Law asks nothing of us that we are literally incapable of doing; but we are corrupted in a way that makes us never fulfill the Law.

      Maybe this has become an issue of semantics, I don’t know. But to start with you didn’t qualify this as you are now. (If I am remembering correctly anyway.)

      But is not our very nature currupted is such a way that we can not fulfill the law? The verses in Romans that I quoted would certainly seem to say so. And that is the way I have always heard it said from your fellow Calvinists also. I don’t think it is just that we will not but that we can not. That is why I don’t understand why you keep saying that we can but don’t.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “No. My point was that if EVERYONE is brought to the point of being able to believe, that removes the doctrine of Total Depravity as anything more than a metaphysical curiosity. There is simply nobody to whom it applies against salvation.”

      Well, I answered that, and I don’t recall you addrssing my response. I said that just because he enables people to believe the gospel when they hear it does not negate the fact that he has to work supernaturally for them to be able to believe. Every person that one meets is the type of person Paul mentions who cannot believe without God’s aid. Indicating this matches the truth and shows that no one can boast and gives glory to God.

      See the next post for more on this . . .

    • Arminian

      Conitnuing from my last post:

      Similarly Wm, you said at one point: “If God enables everyone, then there is nobody disabled.”

      And I responded: “That does not follow in the least. Total depravity is about human nature as sinful and incapable in and of itself. If every disabled person receives assistance to function in spite of their disability, their disability has not somehow gone away nor has their disabled nature changed. They simply get assistance to do what their disability precludes them from doing on their own.”

      Now, here is where you might want to raise your point that you do not think that total depravity makes people unable to believe. But that is not the point at issue, and so a rabbit trrail that we went down unnecessarily. Your logic is, if God enables everyone, then their disability (total depravity) is irrelevant. But it is not irrelevant to the point that they need the supernatural action of God to enable them and cannot do it on their own in the Arminan…

    • Arminian

      Continuing:

      in the Arminian view. Now this is important because you seem to be trying to prove the Arminian view inconsistent within itself, or at least on its own principles making total depravity irrelevant. So you can’t object to its view that we can’t believe on our own to prove your point about this. Given the Arminian view, you say that it makes total depravity irrelevant. But I think that charge is obviously false given what I have said. It has a great deal of impact on those who are enabled, which is everyone. It doesn’t take away the fact that they couldn’t do it on their own nor somehow do away with the very real action God takes to enable them nor reverse their need for God to help them, nor negate the glory God is due in his enabling grace.

    • wm tanksley

      Maybe this has become an issue of semantics, I don’t know. But to start with you didn’t qualify this as you are now. (If I am remembering correctly anyway.)

      This originally started on a different topic — you’ve pointed out that what I said would be inconsistent with what I believe in a different area, so I qualified what I said to explain how it’s supposed to be consistent. If I were a much better writer I’d never have to qualify or take back, but I’m not.

      But is not our very nature corrupted is such a way that we can not fulfill the law?

      Not in the sense of “cannot” we’re discussing here. Yes, we cannot in the sense that we DO not fulfill the Law; yes, we cannot in the sense that we do not desire any fulfillment of the purpose of the Law.

      (I still don’t like using the word ‘nature’. Christ took on our nature, and DID fulfill the Law and its purpose. It’s not our nature that stops us; it’s us.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Now, here is where you might want to raise your point that you do not think that total depravity makes people unable to believe.

      That wasn’t my point. My point was that total depravity makes people unable *in every way* to believe — not merely because our best efforts are insufficient (although they are, when we bother to make a “best effort”), but also (for one thing) because we “hate the light” (to use John’s words). We cannot cooperate with the Holy Spirit while hating the light — and men DO hate the light.

      If Christ’s work on the cross through prevenient grace somehow cleansed all men of hatred of the light, then He removed the stain of Total Depravity from part of us. That may (for the sake of argument) be true; but it’s not consistent with claiming that total depravity is real. If it’s true, we are partially depraved.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      As I said above, Romans 7:19 says, For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

      And Romans 7:23 says, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

      Couple that with Romans 8:7-8: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

      Is that person that is captive to the law of sin and does what he doesn’t want to do, the one that is in the flesh and can not please God capable of fullfilling the law? I certainly do not see how.

    • Arminian

      Wm said: “If Christ’s work on the cross through prevenient grace somehow cleansed all men of hatred of the light, then He removed the stain of Total Depravity from part of us. That may (for the sake of argument) be true; but it’s not consistent with claiming that total depravity is real. If it’s true, we are partially depraved.”

      Some Arminians believe that prevenient grace blanketly enables all to believe and counteracts total depravity always for everyone. However, most Arminians probably believe that prevenient grace is given to people with God’s specific movements towards them for faith. So it would not blankelty cleanse all of their hatred toward God. But very importantly there is not even a claim that prevenient grace cleanses people from their hatred of God. What it does is enable them to turn from their hatred for God. So prevneient grace is very much consistent with total depravity. It is the thing that enables us to believe despite total depravity, even though we are

    • Arminian

      continuing last comment: totally depraved (not that I would grant your reasoning even if I agreed that prevenient grace automatically cleansed our hatred for God).

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I don’t see how I haven’t answered this question many times already. You cited all of these (except Romans 8 ) in an earlier question.

      I will say that Rom 8 is new to the discussion — “indeed it cannot” would appear to identify a specific locus of infection, that if only we could use something other than our mind we’d be free to serve God (a mistake modern mystics make)… But there’s an error in this thinking, since this passage isn’t about our mind in general; it’s about our mind at its worst, when it’s “set on the flesh”. Our mind is ALWAYS as depraved as the rest of us; worse, our mind when “set on the flesh” is INCAPABLE. That doesn’t render us blameless, since we set our mind on the flesh in the first place.

      My point: that our problem is not a mere local incapacity. It’s a global, overall, general, complete, total soaking in sin. And it’s not merely a matter of assigning credit for good; it’s real and hinders us even now.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I simply do not understand your position. You say in one breath that we are totally soaked in sin and don’t fulfill the law. And in the next breath you seem to be saying, and have said in so many words, that we are capable of fulfilling it.

      But the verses in Romans 7 say we are slaves to sin and don’t do what we want to. Is that someone that is capable of fulfilling the law? I don’t think it is.

      I also mentioned Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick: who can undersand it? Again, can a person with this heart be capable of fulfilling the law?

      BTW, I did bring up the Romans 8 verses before. But you may be right that they don’t prove my point.

      You are the only person I have ever heard that maintains we are capable of keeping the law and just don’t do it. That is why I have kept pressing this. That and the fact that it doesn’t fit the definitions of DT I have read anywhere else either.

    • John from Down Under

      Cheryl –

      I’m finding William a little hard to follow too and almost self-contradictory at times, but Romans 2:14-15 opens the door to the idea that there is at least some capacity to (intuitively) fulfill the law: Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

      This may perhaps explain how someone like Cornelius raised in the pagan Roman culture and not taught about Yahweh (at least not from what the text reveals) could be called ‘an upright (Gk. lit. ‘just’) and God-fearing man’ (Acts 10:22). Also Jesus’ statement in Luke 11:13 though not in a strict ‘law fulfillment’ sense. I know committed Calvinists would disagree with this.

    • John from Down Under

      (Cont…) However neither Rom 2 nor Acts 10 lend credence to the notion that we can fulfill the law all the time. Partial fulfillment, even 99% falls short of the mark of God’s requirement for total obedience and perfect holiness, and the 1% failure renders us guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10).

      By virtue of the fact that Cornelius was asked to get in touch with Peter, would show that his goodness was not redemptive but he had to believe in the finished work of Christ like everyone else to be saved.

      These points appear to refute the notion that we are ‘born God haters’ as some have asserted previously. Cornelius clearly wasn’t a ‘God hater’ (by the angel’s testimony). I see no clear biblical warrant that we hate God intrinsically, willfully and consciously with an emotional commitment to hatred. If it was so, Paul would have told the Athenians that ‘God overlooked our hatred towards him’, instead he said that he overlooked our ‘ignorance’ (Acts 17:30)

    • cherylu

      John from Down Under,

      I agree with what you have said 100%. And I am glad you brought up the point about “god haters”. (Although I suppose some Calvinists would claim that Cornelius had been regenerated for a long time but was not yet saved. I have seen that type of statement made–though not about Cornelius).

      William,

      I am trying to clarify here since it seems you have confused more then one of us. You have said several times that we are capable of keeping the law–there is nothing within us that makes us not capable. But that our old man/nature won’t keep it because we are so affected by sin.

      Are you saying we are capable of keeping the whole law–thus fulfilling it? That is certainly the way it has come across to me. That there is nothing within us that keeps us from fulfilling the law but that we never will?

    • cherylu

      William,

      In comments # 17 and 18 on the previous page, you made two totally conflicting statements. First you said this: Keeping the Law is how to please God; but without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore the keeping the Law must require faith. But knowing that faith is required does not give us faith; rather, it tells us that, like the rest of the Law, we cannot achieve it on our own, and we must fall on our knees and repent.

      In the next comment you say: But we CAN fulfill the Law: see Deuteronomy 30. It is perfectly possible, well within our physical and psychological ability, plainly evident to us. The problem is not that we cannot, or that it’s too much for us. The problem is that positively REBEL and reject it.

      (Bold added in both comments.)

      I have gone back through your comments since then. You try to clarify but still seem to be stating both things at different times. It can’t be both ways. So which is it?

    • wm tanksley

      I simply do not understand your position. You say in one breath that we are totally soaked in sin and don’t fulfill the law. And in the next breath you seem to be saying, and have said in so many words, that we are capable of fulfilling it.

      I deliberately never said those actual words. I said that we have no single part of ourselves to blame; there’s no part of a human that is crippled in such a way that the rest of the human can point to that part and say “it’s to blame, not me!” I also said that EVERY part is at fault; there’s no retreating place where a human can point to say “this is the holy part, the real me; I am not at fault.”

      So: every part depraved, no part disabled or missing. Man does not fulfill the Law _ever_, absent God’s help; without excuse. Does that mean man CANNOT? No, not in any way that affects that man “should” fulfill the Law; but yes, in that man does not at any time do so.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      You just told me, “I deliberately never said those actual words.”

      Yet in my last comment the words in bold, But we CAN fulfill the Law were a direct quote from you. You also said in the same quote, It is perfectly possible, well within our physical and psychological ability

      And in another comment you said, But man is physically capable of fulfilling the Law (and more to the point, man lacks nothing that would make fulfilling the law impossible). The Law was made for man; it is customized for our condition. And Christ came as a man to fulfill the Law: He was like us in every way, save without sin.

      Maybe this is a matter of semantics, but I don’t see how. But your statements are hopelessly confusing to me. And your last one just as much so. For it appears to me that you have said more then once precisely what you just claimed you didn’t say.

      At least there is comfort in knowing I am not the only one that you have confused here!

    • wm tanksley

      This may perhaps explain how someone like Cornelius raised in the pagan Roman culture and not taught about Yahweh (at least not from what the text reveals) could be called ‘an upright (Gk. lit. ‘just’) and God-fearing man’ (Acts 10:22).

      “God-fearer” was what the Jews called gentiles who worshiped YHWH without converting (they discouraged converts and made the process even more painful than circumcision naturally makes it). This is why the Temple had a “court of the Gentiles”. So he _was_ taught about YHWH (and keep in mind that he lived near the center of the Jewish faith, so there’s no real way he wouldn’t learn given even faint interest).

      Also Jesus’ statement in Luke 11:13 though not in a strict ‘law fulfillment’ sense. I know committed Calvinists would disagree with this.

      I have to wonder why you think they would disagree. (And, with what — surely not with Jesus!)

      -Wm

    • Arminian

      And another quote from Wm stating that we cannot believe even though he has also stated that we can believe:

      “My point was that total depravity makes people unable *in every way* to believe . . ”

      This is what I was getting at when I brought up the point about Calvinist double speak, though I should not have used that terminology. When I explained myself, I mentioned that it is a standard charge against Calvinism that its incoherence often drives its adherents to redefine terms and use them in contradictory ways. I suspected that that was taking place and predicted that if the conversation went long enough, Wm would do some heavy qualifying that would amount to something like, “we can keep Law, but we can’t keep the Law.” I believe we are seeing that now.

      One thing to note is how Wm equivocates “can’t” with “don’t”. But the two are much different.

    • wm tanksley

      However neither Rom 2 nor Acts 10 lend credence to the notion that we can fulfill the law all the time. Partial fulfillment, even 99% falls short of the mark of God’s requirement for total obedience and perfect holiness, and the 1% failure renders us guilty of breaking the whole law.

      Yes, we mess up because the Law’s too perfect. But there’s more than that: even our righteousnesses are unclean things. So even the 1% is polluted.

      By virtue of the fact that Cornelius was asked to get in touch with Peter, would show that his goodness was not redemptive but he had to believe in the finished work of Christ like everyone else to be saved.

      Cornelius, like everyone saved under the Abrahamic Covenant, believed in YHWH’s ability to save. The fact that he recognized Jesus as the Christ proves this.

      These points appear to refute the notion that we are ‘born God haters’…

      Denying original sin? Are you Eastern Orthodox, or Pelagian?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      (Ran out of space!) … The EO deny Original Sin, but believe that every man sins. Pelagians go farther to say that we’re fundamentally able to imitate Jesus (the EO reject this emphatically). I’m not aware of any other major branch of the Church that rejects that we’re born God-haters.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, you’re right — I used the word “cannot” with two different meanings. I’ve explained why I tried not to do that above — there are many ways in which “cannot” could be taken, and I didn’t want to have to pick through them.

      Thus, I’ve generally tried to say “do not” rather than “can not”.

      Nonetheless, I affirm that humans CANNOT seek God. I deny that seeking God is beyond our abilities, though; God created us to seek Him.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I’m sorry, but if you want the rest of us to have a clue as to what you mean by CANNOT, I think you are going to have to give us the definition of it, in other words pick through it. As it stands, you are still sounding contradictory to me. Why is it that we can not seek him when we have the ability to do so? And please don’t say you already explained it, because if you did I didn’t understand it and obviously John and Arminian didn’t either. Can you try again please?

      What is the ability we have that you say makes us able to do so? And why if we have this ability can we not use it?

    • wm tanksley

      One thing to note is how Wm equivocates “can’t” with “don’t”. But the two are much different.

      Looks like I CAN’T communicate, then. :-/

      I’m trying VERY VERY hard to ONLY use the word “don’t”. It’s not because I don’t believe in “can’t”; rather, I don’t want to sidetrack on what precise meaning “can’t” has. Instead I spend aeons sidetracking.

      My meaning is: total depravity means NOTHING IN US escapes the stain of sin. It does not mean that anything in us is GONE or BROKEN. In particular, this means that there’s no way that “help” will allow us to do something to please God (as an action taken in faith would do!).

      Look, it’s like this: Total Depravity is distinguished from Original Sin because it’s TOTAL. The Arminian concept is not total; it’s partial, because there’s enough left out of the corruption to allow us to respond.

      -Wm

    • John From Down Under

      William, you responded predictably in vintage Calvinist fashion and took the route I expected you would. You said: Denying original sin? Are you Eastern Orthodox, or Pelagian?

      There we have it. As soon as someone challenges the Calvinist mould he MUST be a Pelagian by default! You made the long leap in a syllogism that says “if you don’t believe that people are born intrinsically, willfully and emotionally committed to hating God (the terms I used) the only logical conclusion that follows is that they deny original sin”

      None of us here deny that we are born sinful with an irresistible bent toward sin. However, I wanted to challenge the notion of ‘born God haters’. Let me clarify: In an overarching sense, we rebel against God without giving it any thought by virtue of our sinful disposition. But that’s not the same as the idea that EVERY person on earth throughout history until the point of regeneration, wakes up every morning and consciously goes about hating God.

    • John From Down Under

      CONT… (Michael hacked our rambling allowance to 1000 characters so it’s hard 🙁 )

      Again I point you back to Acts 17:30. Was Paul being politically correct by not telling the Athenians that God overlooked their hatred towards him rather than their ignorance? Don’t you think hating God would have been a far more grievous charge to bring up than ‘ignorance’?

      And finally regarding Cornelius, I assume you must be able to refer us to some reliable extra biblical sources that document what you said about him, since none of those details can be extracted from the text.

    • cherylu

      William,

      So you are saying that nothing in us hasn’t been touched by sin and that therefore we cannot seek God? Is that correct?

      But then you still say we have ability to fulfill the law. That nothing in us is broken or missing so we can’t. And that is the point where we depart. I believe that everything in us is broken by sins total effect on us to the point of making us slaves to sin. If we are dead in sin, however that is defined, we are certainly “broken” are we not?? And since Calvinists argue constantly that being dead in sin means there is no way we can respond to God, I don’t see how you can still insist that we have ability in any way. There is simply no way I can see that you can assert both and have it not be a contradiction.

      Our very nature or old man is a slave to sin and we can’t be free of that old man without Jesus. How can an enitity/nature/old man whatever you want to call it have ability to fullfill the law? And that is who we are.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      William can correct me if I am wrong, but I think he is making an age-old distinction that the early Christians made between critiquing gnostics, who believed that we were bound by our physical nature toward evil and futility, and critiquing pelagians, who argued that we are not bound by anything, physical or spiritual in nature, in our ability to respond to God positively. The former is rejected by all orthodox Christians. We have all of our faculties and physical ability to choose one way or another. The latter, however, is rejected by Christians on the basis that it ignores the fact that we our slaves to our desires, i.e., a spiritual condition gained from our lack of a salvific relationship with God that was rejected in the garden. Hence, we CAN choose positively in regard to our physical nature. We CANNOT choose positively according to our corrupted desires that bind us to our slave-master, sin. So we cannot overcome our desire to rule self and rebel. That must be a…

    • Hodge

      gift.

      So we can do X and we can’t do X at the same time, but both for different reasons. What we cannot overcome is our enslavement to love our own immediate self fulfillment and lordship in order to give that over to God apart from the gift of faith/regeneration/grace given, since given the choice, we will always choose our greatest desire.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      If what you are saying is correct, that makes some sense to me. If the difference is physical versus spiritual, that makes some sense. But it was never qualified that way in the last umpteen exchanges here. Since he kept saying nothing was broken or missing I assumed that had to include the spiritual.

      Is Hodge right about what you are saying William?

    • wm tanksley

      John, I admit I asked an improperly leading and accusatory question, but you caught me off-balance by bringing in a foreign topic. We’re not discussing ranting emotional hatred of God; that’s a different discussion (and one on which I’d be on your side against some Calvinists).

      There we have it. As soon as someone challenges the Calvinist mould he MUST be a Pelagian by default!

      That’s a false accusation; look at my comments here for a complete refutation. And it’s phoney anyhow: if I were being a typical namecaller I’d call you a semi-Pelagian, not a Pelagian. I’m not doing that, since what I thought you denied was being born a sinner; semi-Pelagians accept that (when I’m namecalling I prefer “semi-Augustinian”, anyhow).

      However, I wanted to challenge the notion of ‘born God haters’. Let me clarify

      Then go to a thread where they’re talking about that, and challenge it there. It’s of no interest here.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I agree with Hodge — and well put, Hodge.

      If what you are saying is correct, that makes some sense to me. If the difference is physical versus spiritual, that makes some sense. But it was never qualified that way in the last umpteen exchanges here. Since he kept saying nothing was broken or missing I assumed that had to include the spiritual.

      It does. Man is a spiritual being; unbelievers are not missing a part of themselves (spirit) that is granted to them on salvation. The Biblical concept of spiritual death is (as Arminians all know) not the same as the biological concept of bodily death; the implication varies in different passages, but it ranges from “not caring at all about the things of God”, to “not following God”.

      Man’s body and man’s spirit are depraved.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      But are unbeliever’s spirits still capable of fulfilling the law William?

    • wm tanksley

      I’m sorry, but if you want the rest of us to have a clue as to what you mean by CANNOT, I think you are going to have to give us the definition of it, in other words pick through it.

      I could explain it to you, but I don’t care about you enough to explain it. When your reasonable requests annoy me enough, I’ll start trying to explain it, and then my laziness gets in the way and my explanations don’t make any sense.

      (I’m joking AND explaining by giving a practical example.)

      Why is it that we can not seek him when we have the ability to do so?

      We DO NOT seek Him. We WILL NOT seek Him. The closest we come to CAN NOT is our moral will — because we do not want to seek Him, it is morally impossible for us to do so. But we have every faculty we need to DO it.

      What is the ability we have that you say makes us able to do so?

      As humans, we are complex beings. We don’t have some kind of “ability to do Law”, as a thing that has a medical name.

      -Wm

    • John From Down Under

      William let me start by saying that I have a lot of respect for people like you (truly) who belabor to enrich their knowledge of the Scriptures both in breadth and depth. I wish I had half your scholarly intellect.

      However, I am a little amused by your sense of ‘ownership’ of the thread to dictate what points people can or can’t raise. Whilst you may be narrowly focusing on this particular discussion here, for an observer like me, all these discussions are excruciatingly repetitive and circular and more often than not end up where they started.

      My point? The ‘God hater’ assertion is something that has often entered the discussion to accentuate the TD issue. If you read my comments again, you will see that I ended up there in a linear direction to conclude my point. So in this regard, it wasn’t a throwaway comment. Nonetheless, you reserve the right to ignore it.

      Blessings.

    • cherylu

      William

      I guess I am going to keep right on annoying the dickens out of you here then!!

      So, is our moral will something that we are born with, something that came with the fall? Or is it something that we can change?

      If it is something that we can change, then yes the only reason we don’t obey God is that we DON’T want to.

      However, if it is part of the very makeup of man ever since it was given to all of humanity as a result of Adam’s sin, then not only do we not fulfill the law. But there is not any way that we CAN fulfill the law. Which is what I believe to be the case and it seems quite significant to me.

      And it also seems to me that if you hold otherwise, you are going against any definition of total depravity I have ever read by any other Calvinist.

    • John From Down Under

      Cheryl you crack me up! I think Hodge and William will have nightmares of seeing you in the rear view mirror always chasing them…lol

    • cherylu

      John from Down Under,

      Funny thing, I kinda noticed too that to some people the “God hater” thing had quite a bit of significance and ahem–interest.

      I thought your points were not at all inappropriate for that reason and that it was something that did need to be brought up in light of the previous comments.

      Maybe they don’t interest Master William 🙂 here, but they do interest some of the rest of us.

      (Note to William: if you don’t want to be referred to as Master William, it would help if you didn’t “boss” others around here as you did John regarding this issue.)

    • cherylu

      Concerning comment # 46:

      Well, seems like somebody has to do it! 🙂 Some issues just seem to need clarity, don’t you think?

    • wm tanksley

      Sorry, one more thing:
      And finally regarding Cornelius, I assume you must be able to refer us to some reliable extra biblical sources that document what you said about him, since none of those details can be extracted from the text.

      No need — Acts says that Cornelius “feared God” and was “well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation.” In addition, your suggestion that he’d never been taught about God is simply without precedent in Scripture, and goes against the “how shall they hear without a preacher?”

      Cornelius almost certainly was a “Godfearing gentile” who worshiped in the outer temple court; but failing that, he was at least conspicuously devout towards Yahweh as the Jews taught Him. Either way, his type was common, and the Mosaic Law mentions it. (In fact, the regulations that the first Church Council in Acts passed that Gentiles were asked to observe were the major ones that the Mosaic Law required of all “Strangers in the Land” — but that’s a…

    • wm tanksley

      …a digression.

      -Wm (sigh. So CLOSE to 1000 characters. What a challenge!)

    • wm tanksley

      However, most Arminians probably believe that prevenient grace is given to people with God’s specific movements towards them for faith.

      Do you mean it’s temporary? (That actually makes sense, IMO.) If that’s not what you meant, I don’t understand.

      But very importantly there is not even a claim that prevenient grace cleanses people from their hatred of God. What it does is enable them to turn from their hatred for God.

      So it cleanses them of their hatred of turning from their hatred of God? Or something? (I’m kind of awkward on this.)

      So prevneient grace is very much consistent with total depravity. It is the thing that enables us to believe despite total depravity

      …thereby making the total depravity partial for the duration of its application, without at the same time saving the person.

      This actually does seem to resolve my issue, actually. More in a moment.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Note to William: if you don’t want to be referred to as Master William, it would help if you didn’t “boss” others around here as you did John regarding this issue.

      I’ve always hoped for “Dread Lord”. Sadly, no college grants a degree which confers that form of address.

      Seriously, with all due respect, your judgement is biased, since he’s a partisan on your side. Good thing you’re gracious and light-hearted in your choice of “punishment”. 🙂 But if John wants the right to admonish me, I have the same right to admonish him (so long as I admit where I am at fault, as I did and do). Changing the topic without announcement is bad enough; DELIBERATELY using the topic change to bait people into misunderstanding is something worse entirely.

      John, if you’re the same John I’ve discussed with before, I respect you and anticipate our conversation. (If you’re not, well, hello!) You and Arminian together will be a formidable force indeed! 🙂

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I guess I am going to keep right on annoying the dickens out of you here then!

      Grin.

      So, is our moral will something that we are born with, something that came with the fall? Or is it something that we can change?

      I think you mean “our corruption”, not “our moral will”. Our moral will didn’t “come with the fall”; it’s what we were created to have. The corruption that ruins it is also present in all our other parts. Can we change our corruption? That’s like asking “can I lift myself by my bootstraps”.

      If it is something that we can change, then yes the only reason we don’t obey God is that we DON’T want to.

      No, it’s ONE of the reasons.

      The rest of your post is something you’ve objected against when I brought it up. You’ve always told me that man has to be “able to do otherwise”, or else God isn’t just when He judges.

      Yes, we’re stuck with our corruption. Yes, we can change it. No, it doesn’t make us any less corrupt.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      But are unbeliever’s spirits still capable of fulfilling the law William?

      Our spirit is depraved, as is our body and our soul. There is no part of us that is more evil than another, or more good. There is no part of us that we can blame for our lack of lawfulness.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      No, I do not mean “our corruption” I mean “our moral will”. It is your own term used in comment # 43 on the last page. Remember? The closest we come to CAN NOT is our moral will.

      So, I ask again, is our moral will something that we are born with, something that came with the fall? Or is it something that we can change?

      And would you mind explaining this statement? Yes, we’re stuck with our corruption. Yes, we can change it. No, it doesn’t make us any less corrupt. If we are stuck with our corruption, how can we change it? You seem to be “Master” of a lot of things lately–including making statements that seem to be totally contradictory or very hard to understand!

    • cherylu

      William,

      Okay, cancel the first half of my last comment! As I reread your comment, I see that you did answer my question–at least mostly. So I think that my comment is going to leave anyone reading shaking their head. Duh. Think I need to go to bed for the night.

      But you DID state at one point that we can change our corruption and then at another point that we can’t. So which is it? (There is that contradiction again!!)

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I have a hard time answering the question, since it’s based on an error — you’re asking a series of questions where the very first one is simply incorrect. You’re assuming, I think, that our “moral will” is corrupt and needs to be changed, and asking whether we can change it, and how to do that… Meanwhile, I keep trying to point out that ALL OF US is corrupted, not just our moral will.

      When I say that we can change our corruption, that was me trying to guess a better starting question for you, since asking whether we were born with a “moral will” made no sense at all (we were, and we’ll have it in Heaven too).

      It does make sense to ask whether we were born corrupt; my answer is “yes”. And yes, we can change it; but it’s like trying to wash a greasy rag by wiping it with itself. All you’re going to do is change the arrangement of the filth.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      So we have all of the faculites we need to fulfill the law, but if they are all so corrupted that they can no longer do so and if there is nothing we can do to change that corruption, what is the point of insisting at all that man in his current state can fultfill the law? The point seems to be utterly moot to me. Everything that we have that made us able to do so has been so corrupted that in fact we can not do so at all anymore. And no one since Adam and Eve have been able to.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I think there are several reasons to insist on that. First, it’s an honest treatment of the Bible, which does say that God’s commands are not beyond us. Second, it helps train our moral intuition that we can’t hold people responsible for what they can’t help (without either violating the intuition or giving people excuses for bad actions). Third, it is consistent with the careful guidelines on avoiding known historical heresy, as Hodge mentioned above. Fourth, it Biblically responds to the claims of unbelievers (and believers, although differently) when they charge that they “have been good” or “try to be good”. Fifth, it teaches us the righteousness of God’s law in application to us (believer or unbeliever). Finally, since I’m running out of space, it gives us an idea of the power of God in working salvation in and for beings with our corruption.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I think I finally see the point that you have been trying to make. But it would seem to me that if you are making this point, it would be very helpful right from the start to clarify that though man was created with everything he needed to be able to fulfill God’s laws, he has since the fall been so corrupted that it is not possible for him to do so. That would eliminate the confusion that came from the statements, “he can, he can’t”. And it would of saved us somewhere around 200 comments worth of discussion too! 🙂

      And oh, I hope you are not going to come back and tell me I am still missing your point!

    • wm tanksley

      I’m honestly not sure whether or not I managed to communicate to you yet… I join you in hoping so.

      I agree with your explanation entirely, but I still need to add another detail: we still have everything we need to be able to fulfill the Law (as you mentioned that we were created), and although every part is corrupt so that none of us can fulfill the Law (as you mentioned), nonetheless we cannot claim that we were given any defective part that couldn’t do the works of the Law.

      But note the difference between doing the works of the Law (can) and fulfilling the Law (can’t); also note the difference between fulfilling the Law (Adam could) and saving oneself (Adam couldn’t). Finally, note the difference between having every part be capable although corrupt (we do) and ourselves being capable overall (we aren’t).

      If you deny that we can do the works of the Law, note that Paul says that Gentiles do them without knowing them.

      -Wm (out of space)

    • cherylu

      William,

      I am not denying at all that Gentiles do the works of the law or that any one can do them–part of the time. That was not the argument. I say that neither they nor any one else CAN FULFILL them.

      My whole contention has always been that since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, each of has been born with a fallen nature/old man that doesn’t allow us in any way, shape, or form to fulfill the law. We did nothing ourselves to acquire this nature, but be born. And we can of ourselves do nothing to overcome it. We simply can not fulfill the law at any point in history past the fall because we are all fallen. So to tell someone that they CAN at this point in time–way past the fall–seems totally contradictory to me. Yes we were created to be able to do so, but when you or I or anyone else was born and for the rest of our lives we can not do so without Jesus.

      And that is what definitions of TD that I have read all basically say. None say that we can.

    • cherylu

      By the way, I just noticed that even spaces and html tags are counted in the character count here. One thousand characters are bad enough by themselves. But even spaces and html tags? Good grief.

      Think I will go back to the old fashioned use of quotation marks and caps for emphasis and save a few precious characters.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, you said “I say that neither they nor any one else CAN FULFILL them.

      With one caveat, I’m happy with what you’re saying here; we’re connecting. My point should perhaps be stated “there is no GOOD REASON why man does not perform the works of the Law.” My goal is to emphasize that man cannot point to Total Depravity as an excuse. Total depravity explains why man doesn’t fulfill the Law; but in no case does it completely explain it, without referring to the whole person who fails. (I’m suddenly reminded of my sons’ favorite movie, “How to Train Your Dragon”, in which the hero is often told, “You need to change THIS,” while the speaker is waving to indicate EVERYTHING about the hero.)

      So then: how can a man be “helped” to do something that nothing in him wants to do (and all of him hates)? Man lacks no power or capability; furthermore, the thing he’s commanded to do is precisely the thing he won’t do.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Maybe we are connecting and maybe we are not. I am still not sure here. 🙂 It seems we are saying the same thing and the next breath that we are not.

      You say, ” My point should perhaps be stated “there is no GOOD REASON why man does not perform the works of the Law.”

      But it seems to me that the standard definition of TD is that man because of his totally depraved nature that he is born with is completely incapable of fulfilling the law. Isn’t that Paul’s point when he says that what he wants to do he can’t and vice versa? That he is indeed a slave to sin that lives in him?

      So I would have to say there is every GOOD REASON that man cannot fulfill the law–TD renders him completely unable to do so. The whole person fails–because he can’t help but fail as the whole person is affected by TD.

      It seems to me that you are still denying any standard definition of TD or totally redefining it to say something else. Which is what we have said since the beginning. I have still never heard TD defined as you do by anyone else any where.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, that’s not where we disagree. I intended the term “good reason” to have moral connotations. When we stand before God and He points to any specific act of sin and our refusal to repent, can anyone say, “Total Depravity made me do it,” and have God admit that this is the case?

      In that sense TD is not a morally adequate reason (AKA a “good reason”).

      Another bit of evidence that TD isn’t a sufficient explanation for evil is that every superficially good act is possible from an unbeliever; and many good religious intentions also seem to be possible (although directed towards idols). Every individual PART of goodness is there; but they never come together correctly at the same time.

      My point: sin isn’t caused or explained by total depravity; it’s caused and explained by us as a whole, and we are depraved totally.

      I need to explore how I think Arminian’s explained his concept of TD, and how I think it’s almost enough (I have questions, but he may have answers)…

    • wm tanksley

      I mentioned earlier that I found that Arminian’s explanations had clarified enough that I was able to accept, but not agree with, the classical Arminian claim of accepting Total Depravity. The reason I find it acceptable is that he’s pointed out that he claims that prevenient grace doesn’t apply at all times; rather, it applies only when God wants it to, and its effect is not to allow man to do good in general, but rather to allow him to turn towards God.

      In fact, this nuance strongly reminds of Lutheranism, in which man is incapable of turning to God, but is actively turned towards God by the power of the Word of God declared. (But Lutherans don’t claim to believe in Total Depravity as such.) I don’t know whether Arminians specify when God works through prevenient grace.

      I can accept Arminians believing in Total Depravity by accepting that God partially removes depravity without actually saving us. I don’t like that, but I don’t see a need to oppose it.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      So I would have to say there is every GOOD REASON that man cannot fulfill the law–TD renders him completely unable to do so. The whole person fails–because he can’t help but fail as the whole person is affected by TD.

      I admit that “good reason” is could be two things: a morally adequate excuse, or a sufficient cause. So I was accidentally ambivalent.

      A “good reason” could (for the first meaning) be something I could bring up as a defense or mitigation in a court… “Yes, I broke the glass, but I have a good reason for it — I’m totally depraved.” Anyone has to reject this; total depravity is NOT a morally adequate excuse for sin.

      (Out of room; the next post will discuss whether human depravity is sufficient to explain human sin.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      The second meaning of “good reason” is logically sufficient cause: does our depravity logically require our sin?

      First, yes. Our total depravity ensures that every act will be unclean; we will not desire God with our whole being; our intentions will be unbelieving; and our actions will frequently be deliberately disobedient and destructive. Thus, we inevitably sin because we are depraved.

      Second, no. Total depravity does not explain any one of our sins; the alternative of not sinning was in every way available to every part of us (and the whole). We lacked no power to DO that good thing. As witness against us, we actually DO perform the works of the Law and even glory in having done them; and not EVERY action is explicitly disobedient or destructive. As Osteen and Warren have made an empire discovering, ANYONE can improve their life, even without God’s help.

      -Wm

    • Clark Coleman

      Did Dr. Wallace ever respond to Dr. Abasciano’s reply? It has been more than two years now.

      Reading Dr. Wallace’s piece, and then Dr. Abasciano’s reply, is a little depressing in one sense. I would think that, after several centuries of dialogue and debate among Calvinists and Arminians, that neither would make weak and naive arguments that have already been refuted, and make them in a tone that implies that the weak argument is powerful. If there is any hope of productive dialogue producing greater unity among Christians, we need to get beyond such mutual ignorance.

      I will give one particularly egregious example. Many Calvinists support the doctrine of eternal security by quoting such passages as Romans 8:35, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” An old and obvious refutation of such an interpretation is that the passage (grammatically and conceptually) speaks of an outside agent performing an action (separating) upon a direct object (us). This has nothing to do (grammatically or conceptually) with us performing an action (leaving the faith). Therefore, it is valid to say on the basis of such a verse that a faithful Christian cannot be removed from the faith against his will (e.g. by Satan); picture a kidnapper snatching a baby from its mother’s arms. It does not say that the baby cannot grow up into a teenager who runs away from home.

      Now, if you want to believe that this verse says something about the Calvinist doctrine of eternal security, you can continue to do so. But, to cite it to an Arminian as if it were a decisive proof of the doctrine implies a shocking ignorance of centuries of dialogue. If we are to have dialogue as opposed to factions who engage in mutually ignorant monologues, each convinced that their weakest arguments are powerful, we will have to do better than this.

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