There are a few things that people never forget. The details of certain tragedies and trials stay by your side and the vivid details remind you of their significance. People remember where they were when the planes hit the World Trade Centers. I was leaving for work and glanced at the TV. People remember where they were when the first space-shuttle exploded. I was in eighth grade down by the snack machine getting Bugles. I remember where I was when I was told about my sisters death. I was driving down 635 just passing Preston Rd. I remember where I was when I was told about my mothers aneurysm. I was sitting on the couch on the middle cushion with cereal in my mouth. We remember certain events because of their significance. Unfortunately, most of these are tragic. It is funny to bring this up in this context, but most Christians remember where they were when they first heard about God’s election – predestination.

It was nearly 20 years ago. I was outside my mother’s room and she came to me with her Bible and said, “You think you have got it all figured out? Well, how do you deal with this?” She gave me her Bible opened to Romans 9. It was the first time I had read it. I read it right there in the hallway. When I read the words, “It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but upon God who has mercy,” I got mad. Well, I started off confused. But I did not let my mother know this because at the time I was a know-it-all (hence, the “You think you have got it all figured out” etc.). My confusion turned into determination. Determination to resolve this “crisis.” I went into my room and laid down on my stomach on the left side of my bed. I studied that passage inside out. No, I did not consult any commentaries. I was too smart for them at the time. All I needed was the Bible and the Holy Spirit. My mother was sure to tell me that she had asked people all her life and no one could give her an answer. This fueled my motivation.

After hours alone with the text, I went back into my mother’s room and sat down on her right side on her bed. I said, “I have figured it out.” I proceeded to tell her that God “elected” people based upon what He already knew. I had reasoned this way: If God knows everything, even the future, then He knows who will choose Him. Therefore, He simply looks ahead in time and chooses those who choose Him! That is it! Next question please.

Yes, I came to that conclusion on my own without even knowing that I was articulating an Arminian position with regards to election. I left her room satisfied that she still believed I could solve any biblical dilemma. Yet, the problem was that I was not satisfied with my answer. I knew that my answer was insufficient. Deep down, I knew it. I knew that I was not being intellectually honest with my mom, myself, or the text. I knew that I was simply trying to solve a problem that when looked at in the face was very frightening. No, it was repulsive. This know-it-all-Arminian-by-nature was thoroughly confused. Why? Because the answer I gave was exactly what the text would not allow. It said, “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” And I just told my mother that it DID depend on whether or not someone had done something good or bad, namely whether or not someone had faith.

That day, whether I admitted it or not, I knew my theology was changing. I did not know what Calvinism was and was greatly unaware of the debate surrounding the issue of election, but I was becoming a Calvinist. I did not want to. I fought it for weeks, months, even years. I was a reluctant Calvinist.

However, things did change. I also remember the day that I fully (and joyfully) embraced unconditional election. I was at a seminar led by James Montgomery Boice. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember this story. I will do the best I can with it.

“Imagine this. Imagine yourself being in heaven and walking with the angels. One of them asks you, “How did you get here.” You would say ‘Well, I got here by the grace of God alone.’ The angel responds and asks, ‘Well, I don’t understand. Why are you here and others are not?’ You say, ‘Because God had mercy on me.’ ‘Yes, but,’ the angel replies, ‘What makes you different.’ If you are an Arminian, you would ultimately say, ‘Well, when it comes down to it, the major difference between those people who did not make it and myself is that I choose to place my faith in God.” [At this point Boice places his thumbs under his arms with a haughty look]. The angel then says, ‘Oh, so ultimately, you are the cause of your salvation.’ But to the Calvinist, things are different. There will never be an opportunity or a place for boasting before the angels or anyone else. Not even in the slightest. There is nothing that you can claim. There is no haughtiness, no pride, no self-esteem. Only a deep understanding that God did everything and you did nothing. This is grace. To the angel, all the Calvinist can say is ‘I don’t know why God had mercy on me and not others. All I know is that it has nothing to do with me.'” 

That day I finally came to a settled conclusion that this is what the Bible teaches and I had better submit to its authority, not the authority of my emotion. That day I realized that salvation is a monergistic work of God. That day I realized that my faith was a response to God’s mercy upon me. That day I realized how radical grace is and how sovereign God is in His administration of it. That day I joyfully gave the Potter charge over the clay and placed my hand over my mouth. That day I knew that I could never be lost since I had nothing to do with being found.

Since then, the struggles with regards to this issue have not ceased. I still understand the problems that people have with Romans 9 and the entire doctrine of election. I understand why people reject it. Yet all the arguments that I have ever heard against it only serve to confirm my conviction of the truthfulness of unconditional election.

PS: This blog post is not necessarily meant to be an argument for Calvinism (though it is implied), but simply some details about my theological journey, if you will.

PSS: NO, I am NOT still a know-it-all. Silence!


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. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    182 replies to "The Day I Became a Calvinist"

    • Carrie Hunter

      Thank you Matthew for the comments.

      In regards to limited atonement, I was pointing out that all people hold to some view of it. That is the first point people usually attack when it comes to the TULIP. I believe that only those called (inwardly) of the Father will be saved, and on that basis, the salvific effects of the atonement are limited to the elect. 🙂

      Just wanted to qualify. 🙂

      Have a great day.

    • Joanie D

      http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm
      Not being a Calvinist, I decided I had better learn more about what TULIP stands for. So I ended up at the above website. Would you folks say that the author there did a good job explaining it?

      http://www.xenos.org/classes/principles/cpu1w6.htm
      I am definitely more in the Arminian “camp.”

      Joanie D.

    • Carrie Hunter

      Michael,

      I found my cell phone. I am telling you here on the blog because you seem to be here quite a bit lately so what better place to reach you?! 😀

    • Joanie D

      Oh yay! I see we now have the ability to edit our comments for 15 minutes after we post it! Thanks for that change.

      Joanie D.

    • Vance

      Michael, I think some more posts might be in the spam filter.

    • Josh

      Paul M,

      Great to have you here, this is a fun blog to interact with. Some points of clarity to your #92 post.

      There IS individual responsibility; no Calvinist would say other wise (except maybe a hyper Calvinist but they have a couple other screws loose too). If you don’t repent and accept Christ as your personal Savior you will be held accountable for your sins. And God is absolutely sovereign and “no one can come to Christ, but those that the Father draws”. So it is a paradox (at least in our minds) at this time but the Bible clearly teaches both. If that doesn’t satisfy our intellect (which it certainly doesn’t for most people, because we like to “know” things) and we reject either or both concepts because of that notion, then we have to apply the same logic to the Trinity (as Michael stated early in a responce to Vance). But no one seems bothered by the doctrine of the trinity even though it’s paradoxal (1 = 3), because Scripture clearly teaches it.

      I think you miss-understanding what the term “total depravity” means. A better way to understand this concept is to think of it as total inability, rather than depravity because the word depravity often carries connotations that are not connected to the meaning of the doctrine.

      What total inability (depravity) really means is that apart from the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit no man will come to God. Calvinists, Arminians, and even Catholics (although in a bit different sense) hold to his view, they would just articulate the method in which God uses differently. This is backed up by multiple texts which is why it is consider orthodox and why Pelagius was considered a heretic for his view that “all men are created good”.

      I think it would be difficult to say that it is 100% God and 100% man, because of the clear doctrine of total inability (depravity) taught in Scripture.

      Hope this helps.

      Your brother in Christ,

      -Josh

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      The “direct operation” begs the question (it has not proved that no man can be saved without a “direct operation”). Therefore all that is based upon it is ASSUMPTION:

      Josh said:
      “What total inability (depravity) really means is that apart from the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit no man will come to God. Calvinists, Arminians, and even Catholics (although in a bit different sense) hold to his view, they would just articulate the method in which God uses differently. This is backed up by multiple texts which is why it is consider orthodox and why Pelagius was considered a heretic for his view that “all men are created good”.

      The problem with this view is that it presupposes a “direct operation of the Holy Spirit” which is not found in the Bible.

      The following are precisely stated propositions (either true or false):

      TvF: Abel had a “direct operation”

      TvF: Since Moses and the 70 elders were the only ones given the Spirit, they were the only ones saved (Num. 11:16-17, 25-29)

      TvF: Balaam had a “direct operation” and was saved (Num. 22-24)

      TvF: Esther had a “direct operation”

      TvF: Mordecai had a “direct operation”

      TvF: The three Hebrew youths had a “direct operation”

      TvF: The Samaritans, who were baptized into Christ (thus, “saved”) before the apostles laid hands upon them, “that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:12-19), had a direct operation.

      TvF: At least one man was so totally depraved he “could not” obey the Gospel without a direct operation (Cornelius will not fit here, he was ready to be saved/hear the Gospel preached BEFORE the Holy Spirit came upon him/his house, Acts 10:33-48; 11:14 [which was to prove to the Jews he “could” be “saved”/baptized into Christ]).

      The foregoing ALL FALSE propositions have demonstrated:

      1. The “direct operation” and salvation are two completely separate elements (Spirit reveals truth/God’s Word to man, man obeys “by faith”, therefore he is saved, Heb. 11).

      2. No “direct operation” will save man.

      The solution is quite simple:
      Every person receiving the Spirit (specifically in the Numbers context) pertained to prophesying/speaking by Divine Revelation (Num. 11:29).

      I have been doing a study of EVERY mention of the Holy Spirit (any mention of the Holy Spirit which is intelligibly evident by the context) and EVERY ONE is MIRACULOUS (This is Old AND New Testament).

      Any time the Holy Spirit was upon ANYONE he was presenting (by divine inspiration) some revealed truth (directly speaking by revelation from Heaven) or confirming revealed truth by signs (Mark 16:20).

      The Holy Spirit (3rd Person of the Godhead) therefore operated by three means:

      1. Inspiration (II Pet. 1:20-21)
      2. Revelation (Eph. 3:3-6)
      3: Confirmation (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:1-4)

      There is no time in Scripture where one of these three is not present (when people and salvation is involved).

      The Spirit’s work in inspiring, revealing and confirming the truth of God’s Word has ceased, much like Christ’s direct “work” in redemption ceased, but those saved are still reaping the benefits (I Cor. 13:8-12; Eph. 4:11-14).

      Therefore, nobody is “directly” led by the Spirit in any way whatsoever (no more than you are led by your parents/teachers/what you have gleaned and understood from the Spirit’s Word, Eph. 6:17)

      The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16; John 20:21-23), not a “direct operation”.

    • Josh

      Lover of Truth,

      Could you define what you mean by “direct operation”, I’m having trouble following your line of reasoning and your argument (if there is one) because I don’t know what you mean when you say, “direct operation of the Holy Spirit is not found in the Bible”.

      I am going to attempt to respond to you, because I think you disagree with me (and a huge bulk of Christainity, both past and present) that man needs the Holy Spirit to regenerate him before he can believe in the Gospel and be saved. This is what most would call the doctrine of total depravity, which you quoted me on.

      First let me start off by saying that the texts you have given (in light of the fact that I disagree with your interpretation of most of those texts), are actually affirming the doctrine of election by naming specific individuals and instances where there was a “direct operation of the Holy Spirit” (whatever that means). Because by specifying you are signifying some form of election (in its most basic sense of course).

      That aside, I am curious as to what you do with the scores of texts that teach us that we are born into sin? Here’s just a few and there are plenty more: Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1-2, Matthew 15:18-19, Romans 7:23, Genesis 6:5, John 3:19 just to name a few. So to say that there is no evidence in the Bible that within man exists inherent sin because of the Fall is simply not true.

      In reguard to the Ezekiel verse that you used; you really need to look at the whole context of that verse. The people of Israel were using that “proverb” (v3), to excuse their sinful behavior. In essence saying, “well because our fathers did it we have an excuse to do it (as we so often do today, “well so and so did it, so it’s not so bad” or “everyone is doing so it’s not that bad”). God is saying no, that excuse does not work with me; you cannot use someone else as your reason to sin. (v14-17). This text is no way produces the meaning in which you are implying that it means so you certainly use one ambiguous text to produce a doctrine.

      Here’ some questions for you to ponder. These are not meant to insult you, so please don’t take it that way. I am merely trying to show you one of the best ways this concept of regeneration has been explained to me.

      1. Do you love God?
      2. Do you love God as much as you should?

      I would be curious to hear your response to those questions. Because the next question that follow is:

      If you admit that you love God, and realize that you fall short in loving Him and giving Him all the glory He deserves, then you have to ask yourself the question, what has caused me to love Him in the first place?

      Which I think Paul answers in 2nd Cor. 4:3-6,

      “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

      Hope this helps.

      Your brother in Christ,
      -Josh

    • Vance

      Just to add something that I have found useful, and it is what points me in this direction of the “mystery” angle, which is not just a cop-out from the work of developing a doctrine on this. Here is a bit from the Believer’s Bible Commentary that expresses where I am coming from pretty well. After
      discussing the sovereignty of God in choosing side of it, it goes on:

      “But there is another side to the story. The same Bible that teaches sovereign election also teaches human responsibility. No one can use the doctrine of election as an excuse for not being saved. God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere (Joh_3:16; Joh_3:36; Joh_5:24; Rom_10:9, Rom_10:13). Anyone can be saved by repenting of his sins and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, if a person is lost, it is because he chooses to be lost, not because God desires it.

      The fact is that the same Bible teaches election and free salvation to all who will receive it. Both doctrines are found in a single verse: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Joh_6:37). The first half of the verse speaks of God’s sovereign choice; the last half extends the offer of mercy to all.

      This poses a difficulty for the human mind. How can God choose some and yet offer salvation freely to all men? Frankly, this is a mystery. But the mystery is on our side, not on God’s. The best policy for us is to believe both doctrines because the Bible teaches both. The truth is not found somewhere between election and man’s free will, but in both extremes. W. G. Blaikie summarizes:

      Divine sovereignty, human responsibility and the free and universal offer of mercy are all found in Scripture, and though we are unable to harmonize them by our logic, they all ought to have a place in our minds.”

      I think that, while the current flavors of Arminianism underplay, or outright ignore, the “God’s Choice” side of the equation, the Calvinist side equally underplays the free will side of the equation, as well as the salvation being offered to all. I think they give these lip service, but since our minds REALLY want to go one direction or the other and insists upon a logical resolution, they go to the other side without really giving full weight to maintain the full, seemingly contradictory, tension.

      You can’t have a *complete* logical, systematic theological resolution AND a mystery at the same time. And you definitely should not have a dogmatic presentation of any area that is a mystery.

      Human language for God Things = Through a glass darkly, at best.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      I appreciate the answer, from which I must respectfully disagree.
      Each of those Scriptures used are violently taken out of their context. Observe, point by point:

      Psalm 51:5–This is a Psalm, written in poetic language, correct?, if I were to say, “I am the biggest idiot ever born”, does that make it the case? Given a more “literal” understanding, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me.” To be born in a “pumpkin patch” does not make one a “pumpkin”. Further, the word “in” is easily translated “among”, giving the sense that it was into a world influenced by sin that the innocent child David was born (and as he progressed was influenced by this sinful world). The innocent Christ was born into the same world influenced by sin (not “total hereditary depravity).

      Ephesians 2:1-2–This text is written to Gentiles (having become Christians, subsequent to obeying the Gospel), describing their state before they obeyed the Gospel, Eph. 1:12-13 (nothing to do with “hereditary depravity”, that is fabricated by its [HD’s] adherents). Paul is making the point that all who have sinned need redemption (as he includes the Jews’ need in Eph. 2:3-5). Every one who has sinned and not redeemed is described by Christ as a “child of the devil” (John 8:31-44). No concept of “born sinful” whatsoever.

      Matthew 15:18-19–Thoughts are only originated from the mind, from what man has been able to reflect from the outside world. Man cannot have coherent “thoughts” without some basis of outward stimulation. In other words, unless adultery “existed”/one was “tempted” (Jam. 1:12-14), he could/would not commit adultery (see Rom. 7:7). Satan introduced the first rebellious “thought” by deceptive suggestion (I Tim. 2:13-14). Each successive “sinner” simply obeyed a rebellious thought (introduced by Satan/those already influenced by him, which is not “total hereditary depravity”). Adam and Eve’s thoughts were pure until Satan influenced them by evil suggestion (placing “doubt” of God/evil thoughts in their mind via deception). This is the case with every one who has sinned (I John 2:15-17; Jam. 1:12-14). My body/thoughts/emotions are not “inherently sinful”. When I ALLOW them to be used/abused outside of the purpose God has placed, they BECOME instruments/members of sin (Rom. 6:11-20).

      Romans 7:23–The “other law”, from which the Old Law did not provide complete redemption (Rom. 7:1-) which was working in those under the Old Law is the law of sin and death, specified in Romans 8:2-3. Those “in Christ Jesus” (those baptized into Christ, Rom. 6:3-9) are free from this law (the power of sin, because they have appropriated the blood of Christ, goes back to Romans 6:3-9, the “old man” was the man not justified from sin (no blood of Christ appropriated before he is baptized into Christ). Romans 7 has nothing to do with those “in Christ”/Christians, freed from sin. This is abused completely out of context.

      Genesis 6:5–These are men who have ALLOWED their thoughts to be controlled by sin, thus one must understand Gen. 6:5 in light of the following verses (Noah was NOT one of them, Gen. 6:8-9).

      John 3:19–The whole context is based upon John’s thesis that Christ came to his own (fleshly Jews, who did not receive Him, John 1:11) and only those who received him were only His faithful disciples (“spiritual Israelites of faith”, John 1:12).
      The following verses prove this to be the case (in John 3, there is a disagreement regarding the essential nature of the baptism/new birth looking toward the Kingdom).

      The following implies the false nature of “total hereditary depravity”:
      “Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

      So, what Jesus “really meant”, was that they were to become depraved sinners?

      The false doctrine of “total hereditary depravity” implies many false doctrines (only one is listed, but many more could be!)

      Any false doctrine that implies a false doctrine IS a false doctrine (modus ponens/modus tollens)

      Notice the penetrating force of the following text:
      Deu 1:39 Moreover your little ones, that ye said should be a prey, and your children, that this day have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.

      Psa 119:104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: Therefore I hate every false way.

      It is evident that under no circumstances is “total hereditary depravity” a “Christian” doctrine (maybe one in the minds of the so-called “church fathers”, whose credibility is dubious at best).

      Sent with love/no ill will toward those teaching it (except that one ceases to do such), just ill will toward the doctrine itself (as well as my obligation of speaking the truth in love)

    • Chad Winters

      Hamilton in his book on the Holy Spirit in the OT and the NT had excellent exegesis on the subject of OT saints (see Hebrews) who were regenerated by the Spirit (circumcision of the heart) but not indwelt by the Holy Spirit as saints after Pentecost were. Those who had faith in Christ before his incarnation were empowered by the Spirit to do so just as those who come to faith after Pentecost

      http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Indwelling-Presence-Testaments-Theology/dp/0805443835/ref=sr_1_1/102-9184045-4779306?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189704440&sr=8-1

    • Vance

      This is addressing the general Calvinist/Ariminian debate overall, not the side discussion regarding original sin:

      Just to add something that I have found useful, and it is what points me in this direction of the “mystery” angle, which is not just a cop-out from the work of developing a doctrine on this. Here is a bit from the Believer’s Bible Commentary that expresses where I am coming from pretty well. After
      discussing the sovereignty of God in choosing side of it, it goes on:

      “But there is another side to the story. The same Bible that teaches sovereign election also teaches human responsibility. No one can use the doctrine of election as an excuse for not being saved. God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere (Joh_3:16; Joh_3:36; Joh_5:24; Rom_10:9, Rom_10:13). Anyone can be saved by repenting of his sins and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, if a person is lost, it is because he chooses to be lost, not because God desires it.

      The fact is that the same Bible teaches election and free salvation to all who will receive it. Both doctrines are found in a single verse: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Joh_6:37). The first half of the verse speaks of God’s sovereign choice; the last half extends the offer of mercy to all.

      This poses a difficulty for the human mind. How can God choose some and yet offer salvation freely to all men? Frankly, this is a mystery. But the mystery is on our side, not on God’s. The best policy for us is to believe both doctrines because the Bible teaches both. The truth is not found somewhere between election and man’s free will, but in both extremes. W. G. Blaikie summarizes:

      Divine sovereignty, human responsibility and the free and universal offer of mercy are all found in Scripture, and though we are unable to harmonize them by our logic, they all ought to have a place in our minds.”

      I think that, while the current flavors of Arminianism underplay, or outright ignore, the “God’s Choice” side of the equation, the Calvinist side equally underplays the free will side of the equation, as well as the salvation being offered to all. I think they give these lip service, but since our minds REALLY want to go one direction or the other and insists upon a logical resolution, they go to the other side without really giving full weight to maintain the full, seemingly contradictory, tension.

      You can’t have a*complete* logical, systematic theological resolution AND a mystery at the same time. And you definitely can’t have a dogmatic presentation of any area that is a mystery.

      Human language for God Things = Through a glass darkly, at best.

    • A Lover of Truth/Souls of mankind

      Living life with a spiritual mindset and the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; 10:45; 19:5-7; Heb. 2:1-4, which in EVERY context ALWAYS entails the one receiving to perform miracles) are two completely different things.

      Notice:
      Act 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?
      Act 2:38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

      These people had a spiritual mindset (thus, being “pricked in their heart”) BEFORE they were told “what shall we do” AND before repenting, being baptized unto the remission of sins and subsequently receiving the “gift of the Holy Spirit”

      Act 19:5 And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
      Act 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

      So either “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is miraculous (giving whomever has it ability to perform miracles), or it is not, there is no middle ground.

      The Bible says IT IS MIRACULOUS and it is in a first century context (given by the hands of the apostles, Acts 8:15-18).

      The Bible is right.

    • Carrie Hunter

      Lover said: The innocent Christ was born into the same world influenced by sin (not “total hereditary depravity)…..

      How much does the fact that Christ was born of a virgin factor in here? The fact that His conception was brought about by the Holy Spirit? There is some significance to that in respects to Christ’s perfect humanity. Christ, to my knowledge, is the only perfect man ever. It was not simply because He was God either. Christ is both 100% God and 100% man. His human nature was perfect not simply because He was divine. To deny this is very problematic and leads to all sorts of Christological heresies.

      Ephesians 2:1-2 – So because it was only Gentiles that Paul was writing to/about, it only follows that Gentiles were dead in their sins until they accepted the Gospel? Jews were not dead in there sins apart from the Gospel? Is that what you are saying? And I ask, what exactly does it mean to be dead in one’s sin?

      You are saying this passage has nothing to do with total depravity inherited or otherwise. I don’t see how you have made your point at all.

      Lover said :

      Matthew 15:18-19–Thoughts are only originated from the mind, from what man has been able to reflect from the outside world. Man cannot have coherent “thoughts” without some basis of outward stimulation. In other words, unless adultery “existed”/one was “tempted” (Jam. 1:12-14), he could/would not commit adultery (see Rom. 7:7). Satan introduced the first rebellious “thought” by deceptive suggestion (I Tim. 2:13-14). Each successive “sinner” simply obeyed a rebellious thought (introduced by Satan/those already influenced by him, which is not “total hereditary depravity”). Adam and Eve’s thoughts were pure until Satan influenced them by evil suggestion (placing “doubt” of God/evil thoughts in their mind via deception). This is the case with every one who has sinned (I John 2:15-17; Jam. 1:12-14). My body/thoughts/emotions are not “inherently sinful”. When I ALLOW them to be used/abused outside of the purpose God has placed, they BECOME instruments/members of sin (Rom. 6:11-20).

      The ole’ the devil made me do it cop out doesn’t work. First off it gives satan far too much credit; credit which he simply isn’t worthy of. Secondly it negates man’s responsibility for their actions.

      In all honesty, we need very little coaxing to do bad things as a result of our sinful bent (.Romans 8:5 – 8) 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

      I for one do not hold a very high opinion of my human nature (I can’t see in Scripture why I should). Paul goes on to explain further that apart from Christ, we would simply carry on living in such a way. Gee, I wonder if that is because satan and his crew are out and about making us do things or is it rather we simply do things according to your nature? I think it is the latter first and foremost while the former plays a part at times.

      At this point I don’t have enough time to dissect the remainder of your post. I have to say however that I don’t know if will do any good. I have seen others attempt to discuss things with you but you continually display an un-teachable attitude. You won’t relent on anything and you act as though you have it all figured out. To be wholly honest here I am very leery of people with such an attitude.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Enterprise24, thanks for your personal post on #97.

      I like what you wrote here: “If this person was saved, then perhaps God dealt with him appropriately. If he wasn’t saved, then he was a very good liar and deceiver. If he was saved and lost his salvation…well, then people are able to unchoose themselves out of God’s hand and into hell.”

      Hmmm, I wonder if this is kinda like an “Opt-out” clause. Sorta like you’re automatically included in the Kingdom of God …. until you deliberately and through your own free will decide to opt-out.

      Kinda like the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. Everybody’s invited and “unconditionally elected” to attend, but if you opt out after holding your invitation for a long time, well then…..

    • Enterprise24

      Truth Unites,

      In a sense you’re right about the “Opt-Out” clause. In my understanding of Scripture, all people could enter the Kingdom if they responded to the God’s call to come. The problem arises when nobody, because of sin’s pervasive influence in our life and choices, responds to God’s call. So God develops the plan to overcome sin’s influence to save some and not others.

      (As CMP has so well stated, why He does this is mysterious, and I too struggle with that ‘problem’ with Calvinism.)

      So yeah, the “Opt-Out” clause is there, I suppose. Another way I’ve looked at it is in God’s longsuffering. The evidence for God’s existance, and the invitation for fellowship, has existed in all time. God made Himself available to all people (and in the O.T. to Israel in a particular way, with the presentation of the Law and all that).

      For example, God waited patiently in the days of Noah before killing all humanity but eight; God showed mercy to Adam by not killing him immediately; God waited patiently for Israel during the wilderness trek (though He killed an entire generation of people for disobediance); God waited centuries before exiling Israel and Judah for disobedience. The point is, God is merciful and patient, but there comes a time for judgment and damnation. The invitation is out there, its just a matter of time before its taken away and judgment falls on all those who reject God’s hand.

    • Joanie D

      In comment #110, A Lover of Truth said , “The following implies the false nature of “total hereditary depravity”:
      ‘Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ ” (Matt. 18:3) and then he asks, facetiously, “So, what Jesus “really meant”, was that they were to become depraved sinners?”

      I agree, Lover of Truth. I don’t think we are born already “sinners.” Babies come directly from God and that is why people don’t have to worry about whether or not babies are baptized and if they are not, whether that means they can’t go to heaven. I think Jesus would be horrified that people teach such things. I think as we get older, we then learn right from wrong and with each choice that we make to do wrong, we become more and more separated from the presence/awareness/Grace of God. But, thank God, Jesus is there for us to welcome us back home like the prodigal son of his parable. We repent of the way we have been living, we acknowledge that without intervention of God himself we are the living lost. Sometimes it takes an encounter with a truly “holy” person to make us realize how lost we are and that is why it is important to be a witness to the power, love and grace of God. Other times, it can be something we read that “convicts” us of our sin. It could even be a dream. God uses whatever is available to bring us back to him. At least, this is MY take on what the Bible tells us. I am open to change but I don’t think I will ever be able to believe that babies are born as sinners. Jesus NEVER said that was the case.

      Joanie D.

    • C Michael Patton

      I think that the key is that babies are born as humans. Humanity is represented by Adam and is a fallen race. Therefore, babies are born fallen. In this since they are sinners.

    • Joanie D

      Oh, and the other thing Jesus said about children from Matthew 19:14 (New International Version):

      “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ ”

      Joanie D.

    • Matthew

      Joanie,

      Ditto to what Michael said. Babies, obviously, do not sin in an actual sense, because they do not have the mental capacity to openly resist the will of God. They are, however, by nature children of wrath as is the rest of mankind. That is, they possess a sin nature from original sin, which brings them under condemnation.

      I think to use the statements of Christ to mean that all children go to heaven is to miss the context of what Jesus is saying here.
      If infants are not sinners by nature, then two questions absolutely have to be answered; why do infants die? (the wages of sin is death)
      When do infants suddenly transform into sinners? Does scripture give us an answer to this? Most certainly not. It does, however, state we are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2). It doesn’t differentiate an age distinction here. Psalm 51 was already mentioned.

      God bless
      Matt

    • Joanie D

      I’m probably getting too off the subject, but to answer your questions, Matt:

      1. Infants die because all that lives dies. Plants die and they are not sinners either.

      2. Children become sinners when they know right from wrong and choose wrong. Even our court systems know that you don’t charge a 3 year old with a crime but you may charge a 12 year old with a crime.

      I think we can see the beginning of a life as kind of like the beginning of creation. In the beginning, it was all good. But as people began to think they knew better than God, things went bad. I know that is simplifying things way too much. But as I was driving along today, I was thinking about how someone would explain Christianity to some remote Amazonian tribe that had no contact with the outside world. I tell you what… you would try to make things VERY simple!

      Joanie D.

    • Thomas Twitchell

      Possession is 9/10ths of the law. Though children do not willfully sin when they are conceived, they are indeed conceived in sin. The mere possession of the sin nature is an act of sin. Jesus says a curious thing, “Woe to anyone who causes one of these little ones to sin.” Now how is it sin if they were caused to do it? It is obviously not an act of the sinners will, if it was caused by an external agent, is it? In Adam, all of his children were caused to fall. We inherit, not his culpability, but his quilt, and we do that by possessing sin. Willful or not, sin, is sin. We are responsible, he was culpable. Our culpability comes to us in that it is we who are sinful. It is not our sin that condemns Adam, it is his. It is our sin that condemns us, for we possess it.

      There is a reality of the imputed rightousness of Christ, while it is foreign to us, it works its way out in newness of life. The great exchange was that for our sin nature, he who was sinless by nature, died to sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We possess Christ, or rather he possesses us, and because of a new nature created in the likeness of the Son, we in real time show forth what is true in spirit. By this was Abraham justified, that the works that he worked were the righteousness of God working through a vessel of mercy.

      Sins like works, justify our condemnation. That is, they demonstrate what is the truth in spirit. Thank God, through Christ Jesus, there is therefore no condemnation, now. For we are justified by faith, which is spirit and truth.

    • C Michael Patton

      Amen!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Dear Enterprise24,

      “So yeah, the “Opt-Out” clause is there, I suppose.”

      Yeah, but intellectual honesty compels me to say that the “Opt-out” clause is not technically allowed under the “P” of TULIP.

      “P” must logically follow, but reality intrudes…

      So that’s why I say I’m a very soft, non-polemical 5-Pointer because “P” seems like it’s on shaky ground empirically, although it’s quite strong on a logical basis.

      It’s just weird to me. Someone could be at the “party” on earth, know the “love” of Jesus, and yet the Deceiver could entice the person to “opt-out.” Weird.

    • Vance

      I see this little side angle a bit differently than has been stated. I think we must keep in mind that all sin arises out of two basic character traits: pride and selfishness. And these are traits that EVERY human creature is, indeed, born with. So, in that sense, I think that yes, we are born in sin.

      When we look at the two commandments Jesus gave us, we see that one is based on overcoming pride (love God) and the other is based on overcoming selfishness (love your neighbor), things that are entirely contrary our basic human nature. And, while people can, in a limited sense, be unselfish and can, in a limited sense, love God, that is not where Jesus stopped. He commanded us to love God *with all of our hearts*, and to love our neighbors *as ourselves*. These are things which we can NOT do without God’s Spirit working in us.

      So, I would agree that even the newborn babe is born with the sinful nature, but I would wonder if it is possible that there is a distinction between having an imputed sinful nature (pride and selfishness), and possibly even sinning (actually being selfish, etc), and being accountable for our sins from the time of birth?

    • Matthew

      Joanie,

      Yes, all life dies. Sin brought death into the world. A plant is not under condemnation, because it is souless. It was corrupted by sin entering the world. Adam did not represent the plant world or the animal world before God. He represented humanity. When Adam had offspring, his offspring was created “in his own likeness, after his own image” (Gen. 5:3). That image was now marred by a corrupt and sinful nature.
      Children do not become sinners when they reach an age of mental maturity. Like the rest of mankind, they commit *sins* of omission and comission when they are old enough to willfully do so. They commit these willful acts because they are sinners in their nature from birth. There is no such thing as a blank slate. If there were, then you would potentially have individuals who have never committed a single actual sin. Without a nature that bends their wills toward self and not God, then they would have a completely free choice to remain sinless. In which case, they wouldn’t need a Savior.

      God bless
      Matt

    • Enterprise24

      Truth Unites,

      I wouldn’t say “P” is on “shaky” ground theologically. However, I would say that on a personal level, our perseverance could be on shaking ground. I can think of a number of passages that would seem to indicate that some can come close, but not quite, to entering the Kingdom.

      One that comes to me at this moment (nearly midnight now in California |-) ) is Jesus’ parable of the sower. The seed sown in the rocky ground type sprang up just like the one in the thorny and good ground. The difference here is that the soil is shallow. Good soil, for sure, because the plant grew up quickly (using the nutrients in the ground). As soon as the sun came out and scorched the plant, whatever nutrients and water the plant possessed were used up. The rocks couldn’t give the plant anything it needed to survive, so it withered away and died.

      Jesus says that this represents a person who takes to the word about the Kingdom with delight, but because there is no real root in him (I would interpret that to mean whatever faith there is in him is a shallow, ineffective faith), whenever persecution comes, this man falls away. He does not endure. Contrasted with the man represented by the good soil, he endures to the end, yielding 100, 60, or 30 times at the harvest what was originally sown.

      What about the man who heard the gospel, embraced it with joy, yet fell away when times got tough? As one who is working out his own salvation in fear and trembling, I would hazard a guess to say that such a person (more than likely) wasn’t saved, given the interpretation of this particular parable. Now, I won’t go so far as to say that such a person definitely wasn’t saved, since, as I mentioned previously, God judges the heart, not man. Perhaps the person was saved and God merely disciplined him unto death. The force of this parable is clear, I think: each person had better have “ears to hear”. The word about the Kingdom (the gospel, presumably) only prospers in one who both hears the word and understands the word. The seed of the gospel prospers only in good soil, only in a person who is blessed and can hear and see properly. (I’m getting this primarily from Jesus’ side bar commentary on the use and purpose of parables bisecting the actual parable and his interpretation of the parable.)

      So the question is, am I the one in good soil or am I the one in rocky soil? I suppose with that tension, I’m kept on my toes, as it were, and am (trying to, at least) constantly trusting in almighty God to keep me going through the tribulation, knowing that its not my will that keeps me going, but God’s will working through and enabling me. I won’t go into it any deeper here (yet, anyway), but that’s how I look at most passages that people usually consider “might be able to lose your salvation” type passages (i.e., they’re a means by which to weed out the tares from the wheat before the final judgment).

      In life, I admit, it is weird and confusing. To see people give up the faith after so many years of apparent sincerity and devotion toward Christ. I’m also reminded of the disciples in John’s gospel who fell away when Jesus discussed, in rather graphic detail, election. They couldn’t deal with it, apparently. Jesus said, “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” Some will fall away; its confusing; its deceitful; its heart breaking; its reality. Its all I can do from becoming too depressed about it all. My hope is that in glory, these things will, perhaps, become more clear.

    • Joanie D

      Vance…pride and selfishness, sinful nature. Well, maybe. Or maybe we are all born with a TENDENCY towards pride and selfishness. And maybe, like you say, there is a difference in being born with a sinful nature and actually committing sin. But what would some of you say happens to an infant who dies without baptism (for those of you who believe baptism is necessary to enter the Kingdom of heaven)? I just could not say with a straight face that God condemns them all to a life outside his presence. I know that God is holy and that his laws reflect that holiness and that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not his thoughts. But Jesus said that seeing him WAS seeing the Father and the things that Jesus said and the acts that he did lead me to believe that we have gotten some things wrong about God and what he wants and doesn’t want.

      Oh, and Thomas above in #122 quotes and then asks, “Woe to anyone who causes one of these little ones to sin.” Now how is it sin if they were caused to do it? It is obviously not an act of the sinners will, if it was caused by an external agent, is it?”

      Thomas, I would say that Jesus means that people can cause others to CHOOSE to sin. With children, they are very impressionable, and therefore, Jesus knows that it is very important that we impart the right teachings, values and love to children. Children loved to be around Jesus. He must have been fun. I bet he played games with them.

      Joanie D.

    • CharlesM

      Obviously God in His wisdom knows who will and will not accept His offer – so in a sense everything is predestined. But from the human perspective it sure seems like a choice but before us.

    • Vance

      I think Joanie is right on the “causing” one to sin issue. That is not the best proof-text for the point, by any means. One person can lead another down the path to sin, and thus “cause” them to actually perform sinful actions.

      But, on the pride and selfishness issue (which, ultimately, is just selfishness, since pride is a variation of that, but such an important one that it is worth distinguishing), I think we are born more than with tendency toward this selfishness. EVERY person, without the regeneration that comes with Christ, will be controlled by an underlying self-protection and self-preservation. We will tend to look toward our own needs first. It is even understood by biologists that we are “hard-wired” this way (I love it when evolutionary biology backs up Biblical teaching!).

      I tend to take a very holistic (not to sound new age here) view of all of this. We are selfish beings, which is a basic human instinct and, in and of itself, would not be “evil” or “sinful” since animals are the same way. A lion can kill his rival and steal another’s food and it is just how he is, and it is not considered sin. BUT, God did something to us as humans, making us in His image, that allowed us to commune with Him and develop relations with each other and the world around us that were unique. Selfishness will not work in those relationships, it will be destructive and damaging, so He commands against it. Now, those instinctual actions become sin, disobedience, since rising above them is for our own good. And, we can not do this on our own nature, so God helps provide us His nature.

      Anyway, you get the idea.

    • tnahas

      Vance,

      Do you see how evolution will predetermine your theology? lolllllll

      Michael,

      In any event, the issue of salvation and how we got there must start with how we got here. This can be only done when doing theology systematically (macro) otherwise we then only looking at things biblically (micro). Once we truly consider what Scripture reveals man to be in his fallen state then we can consider if he is able to react to the call or accept the call of salvation. As a street preacher, I can make a general call of the gospel but many continue to pass by but those who stop to listen are true seekers only until God opens their heart. (btw, the others do stop to tickle their ears and to compare notes) Then the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of the Gospel and then they accept an irresistible invitation to become children of God as John 1:12-13.

      Its all laid out the TTP-Soteriology book. However a right understanding of humanity and sin will lead you to the same conclusions, I believe. BTW that’s all laid out in TTP-Humanity & Sin!

      (This has been a paid advertisement for the TTP Program although the writer does not agree with all the statements made in any particular course book)

    • Vance

      Actually, I had already been thinking along those lines, which seem pretty basic and really more of an overview concept than one that dictates a theological framework, this idea of sin being selfishness is not really new. Then, in reading through the science, I came across those biological concepts that seemed in complete agreement. That tends to be how it works, very often, when you are on the correct path! 🙂

    • Matthew

      Joanie,

      Of course, not being Catholic or strict Lutheran, I dont believe baptism is necessary for salvation (or that it guarentees regeneration). It certainly is a means of grace in the covenant community. Generally speaking, however, since God makes a promise in baptism, we have every reason to expect that they will be saved, having been born into a covenant family and having been given that sign.
      Infants who die with or without baptism will be saved if God shows them mercy.

      God bless
      Matt

    • C Michael Patton

      Taffy, that is right. Things must be done in order. You can’t build a house and start with the chimney. The foundation must be laid (where do we go for truth?). Once we have established the roles that each source plays, then we use those sources according to their authority and clarity. While how we feel is important, Scripture often speaks differently (“your ways are not my ways”; “the way of a man seem right in his own eyes” etc).

      Once Scripture speak about our fallen condition, it does not matter how good we think we are or how much we think we are dependent, Scripture says we are helpless, hopeless, sinners, identified with a fallen race, and corrupt.

      With this, one has only a couple of options: 1) Accept some sort of previenient Grace that comes in and aids us to make the right choice (which does not work biblically or practically) or 2) Believe that God is solely responsible for our salvation. The Bible universally attests to our depraved conditions and God’s sovereign necessary choice of those who will be saved. While from a human stand point there is a choice to be made and we are responsible for our choice, from God’s standpoint His mercy and sovereign will is the means by which we make this choice.

      Thanks for the plug, btw.

    • Vance

      Michael, I am going to quote this again, since I think it might have gotten lost in the pelagian discussion above! 🙂

      It explains the problem I have with Calvinism and an -ism, rather than with any of the particular doctrines. I don’t think it explains the full scope of the mystery.

      “But there is another side to the story. The same Bible that teaches sovereign election also teaches human responsibility. No one can use the doctrine of election as an excuse for not being saved. God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere (Joh_3:16; Joh_3:36; Joh_5:24; Rom_10:9, Rom_10:13). Anyone can be saved by repenting of his sins and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, if a person is lost, it is because he chooses to be lost, not because God desires it.

      The fact is that the same Bible teaches election and free salvation to all who will receive it. Both doctrines are found in a single verse: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Joh_6:37). The first half of the verse speaks of God’s sovereign choice; the last half extends the offer of mercy to all.

      This poses a difficulty for the human mind. How can God choose some and yet offer salvation freely to all men? Frankly, this is a mystery. But the mystery is on our side, not on God’s. The best policy for us is to believe both doctrines because the Bible teaches both. The truth is not found somewhere between election and man’s free will, but in both extremes. W. G. Blaikie summarizes:

      Divine sovereignty, human responsibility and the free and universal offer of mercy are all found in Scripture, and though we are unable to harmonize them by our logic, they all ought to have a place in our minds.”

      I think that, while the current flavors of Arminianism underplay, or outright ignore, the “God’s Choice” side of the equation, the Calvinist side equally underplays the free will side of the equation, as well as the salvation being offered to all. I think they give these lip service, but since our minds REALLY want to go one direction or the other and insists upon a logical resolution, they go to the other side without really giving full weight to maintain the full, seemingly contradictory, tension.

      Your area of tension in the “is that just” side of things is only one small part, and a human “gut feeling” issue. I think the real tension, the seeming conflict, lies squarely within Scripture itself, since BOTH election/predestination AND dozens of Scriptures pointing squarely free will and human action. These are in conflict and I agree with the commentator above that it is not something we can logic our way around without doing damage to one of these Scriptural concepts or the other.

      So, I agree with many of the Calvinist propositions, but I can’t end up agreeing with Calvinist theological constructs because they do the very human thing: they reduce it down to a theological system to relieve the tension, which, because this IS a mysterious conflict within Scripture, necessarily gives an imbalanced view.

      I am forced to do as the commentator suggests, hold to both general concepts of election/predestination (fully) and free will (fully, even to libertarian), while acknowledging that it does not work logically.

      You can’t have a *complete* logical, systematic theological resolution AND a mystery at the same time. And you definitely should not have a dogmatic presentation of any area that is a mystery.

      Human language for God Things = Through a glass darkly, at best.

    • C Michael Patton

      Vance, my initial thoughts are “What Calvinists have you been around?” and “Where did you learn Calvinism?”

      I think most Calvinists make the worst representation of Calvinism that there is. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I would rather hang with a passionate Arminian than a zealous Calvinist. They are some of the most arrogant people I have ever met, when that should be the last thing they are.

      In the end, the tension that you describe can only be found in Calvinism. Arminianism tries to alleviate the tension by jumping through some pretty serious hermeneutical hulla-hoops (sp?) to resolve the tension.

      I don’t know of any serious Calvinists (Piper, Frame, Nash, etc) who would ever deny the human side or human responsibility. In fact, your statement above could only be written by a Calvinist since an Arminian position solves the apparent tension by the “looking ahead into the future” explanation.

      In the end, while I disagree with your assessment of what Calvinism must be, I agree with your statements about the real tension and real mystery.

      Sorry I did not get to this earlier. Too many posts!!!

    • Vance

      Well, that is interesting to hear, and maybe I have been around the wrong Calvinist crowd!

      So, help me out here, then. How would you describe the nature of Man’s free will, giving full credit to all of the Scriptures that indicate Man making the choice to turn to God? All I have seen is a concept where it is really God acting, not Man, which is definitely NOT giving full credence to Man’s free will, but that is all I have ever heard from Calvinists (of course, the Calvinists I usually hear from are the ones that are most vocal, who tend to be the most “hyper”).

      And on the election/predestination side, what is the proper Calvinist construction that gives full and complete credence to the idea that salvation is offered and available to all (as described in the commentary), and that God desires all to accept it? I see this as completely antithetical to the presentations of election I have heard, and I am very comfortable with holding such opposing views. But if there is a harmonization that gives FULL weight to each side, I would feel even MORE comfortable. I just don’t see how that is possible since they are contradictory viewpoints and to harmonize is to undermine one or the other.

      I really am agnostic on these issues, since I see that both sides have valid arguments and solid Scripture. I call myself an Arminian more in the sense that I don’t agree with the “ism” aspect of Calvinism, since it seems (in the presentations I have come across) to *lean* too far in favor of the election/predestination side of the equation and doesn’t hold it in proper equality with the teaching of choice and free will and free availability to all.

      I see an attempt to harmonize, which to me is an attempt to “flatten out” and undermine the mystery. I am willing to be educated, however. Honestly.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      >>> However, I would say that on a personal level, our perseverance could be on shaking ground. … In life, I admit, it is weird and confusing. To see people give up the faith after so many years of apparent sincerity and devotion toward Christ. … Some will fall away; its confusing; its deceitful; its heart breaking; its reality. Its all I can do from becoming too depressed about it all. My hope is that in glory, these things will, perhaps, become more clear.

    • Bruce

      Many quality comments on both sides of this difficult issue. One I don’t think we are ever going to come to agreement on. I have been in several Christian camps in my life. I was raised Lutheran as a child, spent many adult years in Arminian based Pentecostal circles, later reacted to that and went Reformed for a period. I will say that after reading Roger Olson’s book “ARMINIAN THEOLOGY, Myths and Realities,” that I now understand there is a signicficant difference between the modern Arminian theology of many like Clark Pinnock and the theology of Joseph Arminias and Wesley. The charge usually from Calvinist that Arminian theology is semi-pelagian may be valid if were talking some modern Arminians, but I don’t think it is valid of classic Arminian theology, of which many Arminians and Calvinist are not truely aware of. I would urge Calvinist and even Arminians to read Olson’s book. I believe many Calvinist scholars set up the straw man in arguing against the Arminian position and there critiques apply more to modern, but not classic Arminianism. That doesn’t make Calvinism therefore wrong, but I believe we need more honest representation of our opponets theology.

    • C Michael Patton

      Bruce, you can actually listen to my interview with Olson about his book here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/scholar/rolson

    • Joanie D

      I came across this website today and found this two part blog about original sin interesting. Here is the first part:
      http://www.metacatholic.co.uk/2007/08/sin-how-original-is-that-art-ix-pt-1/

      Here is the second:
      http://www.metacatholic.co.uk/2007/08/an-alapsarian-world-art-ix-pt-2/

      A couple quotes from the second part are:

      “At the same time, I want to hold on to what is affirmed (if that’s the right word) by the doctrine of original sin: namely that there is something more to the imperfect nature of the world and of human beings than simple concrete acts of human wrongdoing. In the bluntest language, we are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. Estrangement both from God, and from the truest nature of what God calls us to and would make us become, is part of the fundamental theological description of human being.”

      “…this is what God is about, creating order from chaos, and making human beings to live in union with God’s own self. The image of God is God’s intention for men and women, only fully realised in the incarnation, that reveals the image to us, and makes us able to share in it.”

      It’s kind of cute that the sub-title to the blog is “Reading scripture in a post-thingy world.”

      Joanie D.

    • PaulM

      CMP: You said, “In the end, the tension that you describe can only be found in Calvinism.”

      I see no room for tention in Calvinism. How can you hold to that belief?

      So I ask the question again. Given that anything apart from God is not good, as far as the Master is concerned (and that is all that really matters). Even in man’s total depravity we see thing that would be considered “good,” though not truly good as nothing apart from God is good (i.e., love, an expectation of justice, an aching for truth ). If one takes total depravity to the extreme, one would wonder why these, created in the image of God, qualities still exist. My
      question is this: as depraved people still have a hunger for something mor,e that they try to fill in various ways, are we really saying that the gospel is to complex for such a person to hear and accept? I see God despensing enough
      grace to everyone (call) to make a decision (human responsibility) as no more common grace then the provision of air, food, daily provisions, reasoning, etc. All of which he provides to the depraved.

      Unlimited attonment and individual responsibility seem pretty clear bibically. And if humanity cannot “resist” the HS, how is it that so many have (e.g., King Saul and Solomon)?

      The challenge seems to come into play when the Bible says “those whom he called he justified” and “no one my come unless the Father calls him.” I contend that “calling” is the rub and have no problems with election or predestination. (In my opinion, when those words get added it just confuses the situation.) So, what does the “call” or “calling” mean from God’s perspective?

      In the face of what the Bible says about unlimited attonment and human responsibility, the Calivist framwork does not hold for ANY tention. They say there is a tention because the Bible says that people are responsible for not accepting the work of Messiah (even when they cannot in their depraved state) so they are. Again, I say such a answer falls short and is irresponsible. Additionally, how does this fit in that God shows no paritality?

      Wouldn’t it be better for us to error on the side of understanding God in his wholistic love for all people and desire for them to be redeemed, than to understand God as one who created humanity, said he wanted all to come to him, and had the ability to save all; but only saved some?

    • PaulM

      Sorry for all the typo’s, I really should have proof read first.

      By the way, (thanks to my wife) I have learned that the answer to all this tension in in quantum mechanics. That is something can be in multiple states until one tries to observe it.

    • C Michael Patton

      Paul, you are characterizing Calvinism too tightly. There are Calvinists who believe in unlimited atonement. And most every Calvinist that I know of hold to human responsibility. That is why I said it is the only system that allows tension (which does not necessarily make it right at all). Calvinists can hold in tension unconditional election, divine love for all, and human responsibility. Arminians don’t and can’t. They let go of unconditional election in favor of human responsibility and divine love.

      That is why I say that Calvinism can be more consistent with the biblical data without having to sacrifice anywhere.

      But believe me, I know that there are some very intelligent Arminians who love the Lord and know the Scriptures inside out. My friend Paul Copan is one.

    • Vance

      I will add what I wrote over at Submerging Influence, since it is applicable here as well:

      My real issue is that I still don’t think that the Calvinist position really DOES keep the two in tension. They adopt the one wholly, then just give lip service to the other, saying “well, yeah, that is true as well, but we don’t know how, it is a mystery. But what is IMPORTANT is that God has elected certain people.”

      That is not balanced or maintaining REAL tension and mystery. You do not hear any Calvinist really preaching the point adamantly that salvation is available to all, all may come, all may be saved, and God desires everyone. In truth, I hear more respect and sincere attempts to accommodate the texts regarding election, and truly taking that as something real and serious from Arminians than I see Calvinists placing the other side of the tension up at the same level as their predestination and election. Do Calvinists really view “salvation available for all” in EQUAL place with “God has elected some”?

      In short, what I see from Calvinists is a fixed and systematic construction of exactly how God must have done it all, and everything He intended. Then, those things which don’t fit their scheme (and there is a lot), they call it a mystery and push it off to one side.

      Maybe I have been reading or listening to the wrong Calvinists, but I don’t hear them expounding equally on the other side of the tension equation. They only raise it to explain it away in some way, then back to the main agenda.

      What I think is valuable in Calvinism is the focus on salvation being ultimately entirely God, whether it is Him electing unconditionally or using some sort of prevenient Grace, or some other, broader, enabler in our lives. And since that is so much missing in our modern religious culture, Calvinism is on a resurgence in response. However, I think that the fact that there are so many flavors of it, as you mention, might show that it is arising more as the cure for the ill, regardless of whether it goes to far, itself, in the other direction.

      The pendulum, when it swings, always goes to the other extreme before heading back to the middle. Hegel all over, I suppose. I have long since chosen to hop off the pendulum in an area I see as safely within solid Scripture, even though that means saying I really have NO idea what God is doing exactly.

    • C Michael Patton

      Vance, again, while I agree that this can be inbalanced, the point is that Calvinism is the only system that allows tension.

      You said:
      “They adopt the one wholly, then just give lip service to the other, saying “well, yeah, that is true as well, but we don’t know how, it is a mystery. But what is IMPORTANT is that God has elected certain people.”

      Fair enough. I agree that some Calvinists are imbalanced and only focused on the issues of Calvinism. But I would also say, 1) that this is not an argument against the truths which Calvinism claims, and 2) this is not always the case. Look at the Calvinism of DTS. I think, once again, your perspective has been imbalanced by the more vocal Calvinists who do not represent Calvinism very well.

    • Vance

      That is very likely, and I suppose it is akin to the Calvinists who, upon hearing someone is a Calvinist starts screaming “you don’t think God is entirely sovereign! Let God be God!”, etc. One commentator I read a while back had a good point saying that we are to a point where the “isms” are becoming less useful in describing where people actually are in their overall approach. It is becoming more of a spectrum of beliefs, rather than an adherence to an “off-the-shelf” theological construct.

      While there is some benefit to standing on the shoulders of giants, the simple truth is (as I am wont to quote from NTW), we are all wrong about a pretty good chunk of our theology, but it is impossible to know which chunk it is. So, if we adopt any “system” created my man whole-cloth, we will still be getting it wrong. Better, I say, to study and learn from all of the great thinkers and then reconsider all the points afresh. You will still end up with a big chunk of your approach being incorrect, but at least it will be after studying and personally understanding what you espouse.

      In the end, though, I don’t see a need to cling to any systematic theology of issues in which I think there is this much uncertainty and difficult Scripture.

    • Lisa R

      I will add to the mystery of Calvinism by saying that we don’t know who God has sovereignly elected. Therefore, that should give the impetus to make the offer available to all. So I have to disagree slightly with Vance because Calvinists that I know understand that. And that’s the tension…how can He love all but only elect some.

      Paul, re comment #142, I hear what you are saying but how do you reconcile that with Romans 9:14-24, which loops back (I believe) to how this post got started in the first place? Isn’t it clear that this refers to God’s choosing and electing entirely separate and apart from human will or choice?

    • tnahas

      It could be explained biblically, practically and emotionally as well.

      The biblical are far too great on both sides to really get into in depths but previous posts have referred to them. Now looking at the acronym TULIP we can see how this actually plays out:

      T = Total Depravity; we all can readily admit that even if you didn’t believe in imputed or inherited sin, we would all admit that we are responsible for personal sin. But here is the rub even after we’re saved we continue to sin somewhat showing how truly depraved we are. Once we come to the knowledge of the great sufferings our Lord took upon for us, we still disobey!! I call this Total Depravity.

      U = Unconditional election; as one of the pillars of the doctrine, both camps believe in election, its unconditional that causes the problem. When we all each look back at our own individual testimony as when believed, can anyone truly say that they had a role to play? In light of the “walking dead” picture above, can anyone say they were able to believe without the whole operation of God involved. Here more than any other place, do we see man-centered theology than God-centered. Can a person decide that today is the day that they will accept Jesus. As far as Calvinist preachers are concerned, more than ever do we see ardent preachers for the gospel than Spurgeon, Whitfield and others. As for respect of the other camp, Spurgeon stated that Wesley was go godly than Wesley should be counted among the Apostles. Here we stand in worship and adoration.

      L = Limited atonement; even for Calvinist a hard pill to swallow but can we deny that all are not saved. Was Christ work insufficient? Of course not!! But only through His work can we enter and then by entering do the “elect” have the atonement applied to them. As for the unbelievers when an Arminian can not answer the question, why would a person accept the gospel as opposed to reject it, here is where the Calvinist can easily assert that the Arminian concept of the atonement is more limited than the Calvinist one! We all know that not all are saved and that universal salvation, while a wonderful idea is not biblical.

      I = Irresistible grace; another stumbling block as to why would God be irresistible? Let man choose you say, well man did choose in Garden with all of his blessings of God he chose to sin instead of enjoy God and His blessing in his pre-fallen state!! God’s sovereignty must overrule or else the Arminian God is too small. In light of His creation and the work at Calvary, is our God truly that small? Who can thwart the will of God and again the concept of decreed will of God and permissive will of God comes into play.

      P = Perseverance of the Saints; well, I for one am happy that not only did God save me and He is that keeps me. If I have anything to do with holding on to my salvation well, I’ll lose it and lose it for good. I believe that once saved always saved and that perseverance can be seen as perseverance until death and then we are ushered in to glory. Again can we foil the work of God and being born again physically brings to mind that we can’t, as it were, go back through the birth canal. Once born again, truly then always born again.

      In peace and humility this is given to wonder and ponder.

    • PaulM

      CMP, please explain the statement, “Vance, …, the point is that Calvinism is the only system that allows tension.”

      How does Calvinism allow for tension? I am trying, I just cannot see it.

      I do see both sides of the issue and really appreciate why people struggle and fall out on both sides trying very hard to stay true to the text. Yet, I still cannot understand how Calvinism allows for tension.

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