In and Out of Calvinism

[Download MP3]

Dr. Brown talks with Austin Fischer about his book Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed and talks about what draws some people into Calvinism today and why some are leaving Calvinism. Listen live here 2-4 pm EST, and call into the show at (866) 348 7884 with your questions and comments.

 

Hour 1:

Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: Be faithful to God and the Word of God; whatever the costs, whatever the consequences, do it!

 

Hour 2:

Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: Why do you believe what you believe?  Are you sure? You better be!

 

SPECIAL OFFER! THIS WEEK ONLY!  

More than 25 years ago, Dr. Brown taught an 8-week, 12-hour class on spiritual warfare, and that class has stood the test of time as the very best teaching he has ever done on the subject. The audio CD for this series is $20, plus postage, but you can download the entire series for just $10 this week.!

Call 1-800-278-9978 or Order Online!

Other Resources:

Calvinists Call-in Day

The Question of Hell and Eternal Punishment

Reflections on the Calvinism Debate with James White

55 Comments
  1. Austin Fischer gives an unconvincing message to the Christian who has seen that the reformed view on election is the only satisfying one. I was a Wesleyian Arminian for 25 years and was convinced that scripture taught in this tradition, but after much reading and thought, I changed my mind, and it happened around 2001. I don’t think Fischer really understands reformed thought. Dr. Brown why can’t you interview Dr. Douglas Moo on your show re. this doctrine? Moo is a man that will go where the text leads, even if it is against his theological tradition. That would be a show worth listening to!

  2. Re: Hour 1

    I think the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate is a classic false dichotomy.

    BOTH Arminianism and Calvinism can be argued from the bible. This is why the debate is so vexing. BOTH are true!

    Clearly, the bible is a the story of human agency. This supports Armininism.

    Clearly, the bible teaches the omnipotence and omniscience of God. This supports Calvinism.

    But, to believe both, you have to accept that God is above human logic. This requires more humility than many Christians have. (Especially theologians!)

  3. I once had a New Testament Greek professor that said something like, ‘Predestination and free choice are the two rails that the train runs on. They go to the same place but they never intersect.’ Our minds cannot comprehend both at the same time. There is nothing we can do about predestination, but we have a very important part to play in choosing. A truly saved predestination believer lives a righteous life because of gratitude. A truly saved free choice believer lives a righteous life because of accepting his responsibility. Someone that is not a true believer finds himself freed to sin by predestination and unable to live a responsible life by free choice. This is about as eloquent as I can wax on the topic. Myself, I am more of a Arminian and I think that I was predestined to be so 🙂

    Shalom

  4. I think the Bible supports atheism.
    “American Atheists has always encouraged the public to read both the Old and New Testaments from cover to cover. Many people become atheists after reading the Bible.” – Ellen Johnson

  5. Van, Do you suppose they became like the man who looked at himself in a mirror, and then walked away forgetting what he looked like?

    It’s those who do the word that experience God and his life changing grace.

    Sadly, there will always be those who read the Bible and then walk away from it.

    For all I know, maybe that was always their destiny.

    If ever a man wonders about his destiny, about all I know to do is to ask the Father, “May I please be one that will believe in Jesus and be saved? Will you please have mercy on me, a sinner?”

    I don’t think it does one any harm to sincerely ask, but he must ask in faith, it seems to me.

    A man must hear the word to the end he remembers and continues in it, in order for faith to do it’s work.

  6. God showed me once that he knows my thoughts before I think them, for his hand was upon me and I knew what chastening felt like, when it was light, and when it was heavier, and I felt his hand of correction upon me, and wondered what that was for.
    And just after that, some crazy thinking came from me, something I was later ashamed of.

    So what about the man who resists God, God knowing this before he made the world?

    And being in charge of all things spiritual, and over all spiritual beings, having authority over all things, (being able to say to this one, go and he goeth) throughout all time, and knowing all things ahead of time, what about all that?

    If I can receive all that, predestination shouldn’t seem so strange, for his is the Judge of all things.

    And what about the man who prays fervently about such things as salvation, sanctification, and things of that nature?

    What if God saw all that before he made the world, and decided on some things for that one, arranging him help in time of need, knowing it would be enough and that the man would gladly receive it when he needed it?

    There must be some kind of term for that sort of thing.

  7. I thank God that American atheists encourage reading the bible, although I’m very skeptical of that statement, but the reason would be anger and faithlessness in God. But there is a God because there must be something eternal, something before everything where everything found their life and existence. We all die so we’re definitely not eternal.

  8. 🙂 I meant to say that people become atheists after reading the bible probably because of anger or faithlessness. I don’t understand how a universe can come into existence without being caused – designed – beauty – elegance

  9. Van,

    Someone that hungers and thirsts after righteousness will find much nourishment in reading the Bible. Those that are already full of themselves will likely have no room to even begin the digestive process. And I am guessing that many more nonbelievers have become believers by reading the Bible than vice versa…so give it try…an honest try please.

  10. “I don’t understand how a universe can come into existence without being caused – designed – beauty – elegance”

    Science tells us that the universe had no beginning will have no end, has no boundary and no center. We know the universe as we now observe it had a beginning but the things the universe is made of, matter and energy, have always existed. Hope that helps.

  11. Van, unless a man is born again he can not understand things about the kingdom of heaven.

    There’s a reason God begins telling us about the world with such things as spirit, water, and light.

    See Luke 1:35. God has often spoken in the past through patterns and things.

    As far as what has always existed, I believe there are three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  12. Bo,

    See! You and I can agree on things. Especially an essential doctrine like this. I like your professor’s rail analogy.

    I don’t remember what my bible school professors said specifically about the issue but they only tended towards Calvinism. They certainly were not hard Calvinists.

    And I do consider this fundamental doctrinal debate… especially free will.

    Without a theology of human free will, much of the bible just doesn’t make sense.

    The bible is very much about human agency, especially towards God.

    I think one of the most marvelous bible studies I’ve ever done was to take the “Hall of Faith” list in Hebrews 11 and carefully study the corresponding Old Testament stories.

    A thread throughout “The Faithful” is action.

    (One cold also call it dynamism to include the idea of change.)

    It can be a little off-putting to notice that the Old Testament stories often don’t even mention belief or piety. Faith is action. Faith is change. Faith is movement.

    Anyway, I don’t see how any of this makes sense without a strong doctrine of free will.

    In contrast, Calvinism is a much more intellectual debate. It involves two theologies that come from systematic theology: the omniscience and omnipotence of God.

    (I think this is why this debate doesn’t come into full bloom until quite late in church history.)

    As monotheists, these are also fundamental doctrines but, IMHO, not as essential to the Gospel message.

    I’ll use myself as an example: I was born-again at a fairly young age. I didn’t know a single thing about the omniscience of God. I probably couldn’t have understood it, had it been explained to me.

    But, I did understand the need to _act_. Even at that very young age, I understood that I had to make a choice and do something about it.

    So, while I believe in BOTH free-will and pre-destination, I don’t weight them equally.

  13. R. Kneubuhl,

    I’m glad you corrected your post! I was getting ready for a vigorous disagreement.

    While I agree with you, in many cases, I’m not sure you can say that all atheists are driven by anger.

    The “atheists supremacists” seem to have a lot of anger and anti-religions bigotry in them. I suspect that many have been victimized by some pious Christian at some point in their lives.

    The few times I’ve gotten one of these atheist supremacists to open-up a lit, a sad story comes out. Abuse by a devout Christian parent or pastor or other church figure is common.

    Increasingly, I hear stories of people injured in the ugly “culture wars” debate that has been so loud for the last generation.

    But, in contrast to the “angry atheist” is the person who simply doesn’t believe God exists. Of course, then, the bible just seems old stories to them — sort of how the Iliad strikes me.

    The Iliad doesn’t make me angry — it’s even interesting. But it doesn’t move me one way or another.

    But you don’t hear from those atheists as often because they are not motivated to argue with believers.

  14. Bo,

    >>I think the Bible supports atheism.

    Oh, c’mon. That’s just silly. The bible presumes God, through and through.

    You clearly are just having fun by poking these guys with a stick.

  15. Actually, I know several people who became Christians after reading the Bible. One I can think of off the top of my head is Francis Schaeffer, who said that he, as an unbeliever, did exactly what Van suggests, and ended up becoming a Christian. I can think of a Muslim man in Afghanistan whom Dr White interviewed a while back who had nothing but an Arabic Bible [no missionary, no one to explain the gospel to him] who read about the gospel and was converted in an entirely Muslim culture. Also, the American Atheists are not exactly the most intelligent atheists on the planet. Most of these atheist activist organizations are merely propaganda groups designed to push atheistic agendas through rather than people who give serious consideration to the claims of Christianity and Atheism.

    “Science tells us that the universe had no beginning will have no end, has no boundary and no center. We know the universe as we now observe it had a beginning but the things the universe is made of, matter and energy, have always existed. Hope that helps.”

    And exactly how can science tell us that? What observation in the natural world would ever give you the notion that matter and energy have always existed? In fact, it is utterly illogical to say that. If something has always existed, then that thing must be infinite. If that thing is infinite and impersonal, then the problem is how it would ever get to today. Infinity plus one is still infinity. Thus, if matter is infinite, as philosophy and mathematics has shown, it shouldn’t have made it to today.

    The real problem is the impersonal nature of matter to function as eternal, that is, as an almost pseudo God for the atheist. The Christian has an answer to this, and that is that God who is infinite, eternal, and not limited by time is also personal, and thus can conscientiously decide to condescend into our world of time and space to both create and to relate to that creation. Hence, there are both relational aspects to God as well as eternal aspects to God. This, theologically, allows the Christian to both have eternality as well as personal relationship with God and with his creation.

    Matter, being impersonal, can never do that. It will either be called “eternal,” in which case it is removed from us and our world, or it will be called temporal, in which case it had a beginning and is passing away. There is simply no way to bring these two together.

  16. Ray,

    >>Van, unless a man is born again he can not understand things about the kingdom of heaven.

    You are not going to convince many atheists with that argument!

    This just confirms what they think about us religious people — that we turn-off our brains first, take a leap of faith, and then construct “truth” from that.

    Of course, as a person of faith myself, I see it differently.

    I believe that faith and intellect are apples and oranges. They can co-exist very nicely together in the human brain and spirit.

  17. Well, to be more accurate, I think faith and intellect are ultimately the same.

    I have a unified theory about “theology” and “science” that hardly anyone is willing to even entertain.

    But, I am formally educated in both the bible and in a science-related field, so I’ve been forced to think about this a lot more than most people.

  18. The LORD told me i think it was GOD that it was a false dichotomy, the problem is TD and FW i can fuse these together according to scripture and both together makes the both houses fall because both C & A rely on these cornerstones GOD and man not the GODMAN Jesus Christ
    @Greg Allen
    Re: Hour 1

    I think the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate is a classic false dichotomy.

    BOTH Arminianism and Calvinism can be argued from the bible. This is why the debate is so vexing. BOTH are true!

    Clearly, the bible is a the story of human agency. This supports Armininism.

    Clearly, the bible teaches the omnipotence and omniscience of God. This supports Calvinism.

    But, to believe both, you have to accept that God is above human logic. This requires more humility than many Christians have. (Especially theologians!)

  19. I would say that the issue is not human agency. Calvinists believe in free agency, in that we believe that man has the ability to do whatever he wants to do. Man is not manipulated or tricked into doing what he doesn’t want to do. In fact, Calvinists would say that that is the problem. Total depravity [I prefer “total inability] means that man only wants to do what is evil. Now, that doesn’t mean he is as bad as he could be, but it does mean, at very least, that he will not do everything he does to the glory of God, because he is a rebel against God. The issue of total inability is not a physical inability but a moral inability. Just as I am not able to sexually molest a child or murder someone I don’t like because I believe those things are wrong, so unbelievers are unwilling to submit to Christ because they hate him, and believe that he is wrong to demand that submission of them.

    I think this discussion between R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner lays out the issues well. Sproul here is playing the “devil’s advocate,” playing an atheist who objects to the Bible on the grounds that free will and divine sovereignty are incompatible:

    http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/silencing_the_devil/is-god-or-man-sovereign/?

    It is well worth the time to listen. As John Owen once said, “Free will has sent many a man to hell, but never a man to heaven.” The Calvinist does not see free will as the answer, but as the problem, because our will is bound to evil.

  20. Bill,

    I’d have to disagree with your assessment as Calvinism defies logic on basic Christian theology. For example, the idea of a limited atonement in the face of clear contradictory biblical passages just don’t make any sense. I would embrace Calvinism if it didn’t require me to make such exegetical stretches in attempt to hold to its tenants. For example, how do you posit a limit atonement from such passages below?

    And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (I John 2:2)

    But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

    As far as Dr. Brown reaching out to Dr. Moo, I’d also suggest that he extend a hand to Dr. Bill Witherington III, who also follows the text wherever it leads. He obtained his M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Their Theology department is of the Reform persuasion. After graduating, he was more convinced than ever that the basic tenants of Calvinism were completely wrong in light of the clear exegesis of Scripture.

  21. James Gray,

    The only point I was making is that they were not coerced; they are doing exactly what they want to do. They have the freedom to do whatever they desire, and that is all that is required in order to say that man is “free.”

    Now, if you want to go to your objection:

    “If all of our choices as free agents are prearranged by God before the world began – then our moral inability would be part of God’s predetermined set of events. God would still then be judging people based on choices that He predetermined for them to make – correct?”

    If God knows when he creates that a person is going to not believe, then why does he create them? Does he not, by creating them, doom them to some pre-ordained destiny that they will disbelieve, even in your own view? That is why I was surprised at your statement, because the only one who can really use that objection is open theists. If God knows that someone is not going to believe before he creates them, then by creating them, he has made their destiny inevitable before they were even created, in which case, we are both in the same boat.

  22. Adam,

    Thanks for your response.

    You wrote:

    “That is why I was surprised at your statement, because the only one who can really use that objection is open theists.”

    Well, from what I gather, a “Simple Foreknowledge” view may be reasonable enough as an approach to understanding God’s character in light of His exhaustive foreknowledge.

    I will refer you to an article that expounds on the Simple Foreknowledge view:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-explanation-of-simple-foreknowledge/.

    Also, this is a related article:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/calvinism-on-the-horns-the-problem-of-divine-foreknowledge-in-calvinism-and-why-you-should-be-an-arminian/

  23. I think I have heard this answered by hard-line Calvinists but…

    How do they explain the verses where God changes his mind? (Like Exodus 32:14)

    Was God just bluffing? You know, like one of those parents who threaten to punish their children knowing full-well they never will?

    A much easier explanation is that the story of the bible is the story of God’s interaction with humans. This includes God altering His actions based on human actions. (and, visa versa, of course.)

  24. James Gray,

    The point I raised is that, so long as you believe God knows the future, you have to answer the question as to why God created knowing that any individual was going to reject salvation, and as a result, be damned forever. In that regard, Calvinists and Arminians who hold to the simple foreknowledge view are in the same boat. As long as you believe in foreknowledge, and you believe in God as creator, you have to explain why God created given his knowledge of what would happen if he did. The Calvinist simply says that God has a purpose in it, and that it is not all meaningless, because it has been purposed by God for his own glory.

  25. Greg Allen,

    “I think I have heard this answered by hard-line Calvinists but…
    How do they explain the verses where God changes his mind? (Like Exodus 32:14)”

    First of all, “changed his mind” is not the best translation here of the Niphal of נחם. The NIV, ESV, NKJV has a good gloss here of “The Lord relented.” Also, what Moses brings up is important, and that is the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In essence, Moses seems to be foreshadowing the role of the priest as an intercessor of the covenant.

    What God relents of here is not his eternal decree, but how he is dealing with Israel in time as a result of their sin. Any sin that is not mediated by an intercessor is something God’s wrath is going to burn against. However, once there is intercession, then God will relent of this destruction he spoke of. God’s nature and character doesn’t change throughout this whole episode. He hates sin, and will destroy those who sin. However, he will also be faithful to his covenant, and once that intercession is in place, because he values his covenant more highly, he will no longer be angry, and will not do what he said in his anger-again, not because he has changed, but because he now sees their sin through the work of the intercessor.

    However, in an eternal sense, we can say that God decreed Israel’s sin which resulted in his anger against them, and his desire to destroy them, but that he also decreed the intercession of Moses which resulted in his anger being satisfied, and him no longer saying he would wipe the people out. Why did God decree these things? Because he delights to show mercy, especially because of those he loves such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

  26. Adam,
    Your wrote:

    “The point I raised is that, so long as you believe God knows the future, you have to answer the question as to why God created knowing that any individual was going to reject salvation, and as a result, be damned forever.”

    That question though, in my opinion, doesn’t pose any challenge to God’s character and/or goodness. It seems that it would be perfectly acceptable for God to create a world in which people would have the freedom to either put their faith in Christ in order to be saved, or to reject Christ and be damned. I think that God’s decision to create – His act of creation – does not necessitate that every event within the creation (including a person’s choice) must be causally and originally predetermined by God.

    Does not the Calvinist compatibilist have to maintain that God condemns people for choices that He makes them perform (regardless if those choices are in harmony with their desires) – choices that did not actually originate with them?

  27. Good question:

    “The point I raised is that, so long as you believe God knows the future, you have to answer the question as to why God created knowing that any individual was going to reject salvation, and as a result, be damned forever.”

    The answer is God’s grace and mercy. He created knowing Grandma May was going to reject Him, because Grandma May was going to have children, and her daughter Mrs. May was going to accept Him. And Mrs. May’s children were going to accept Him as well. So just because Grandma May was going to reject Jesus and be damned forever, her children were not. So yes, God does have purpose, and it’s to extend grace and mercy to everyone as He desires that no one perish but have everlasting life through His Son.

  28. Being damned forever sounds so cruel and violent. I would expect a good and righteous God to be fair. Isn’t that why we love the thought of an America with courts and laws that keep everything fair and balanced? Shouldn’t God be more fair than America?

    We love fairness because it’s right. And judgment ultimately belongs to God. I don’t think that we can be sure of being damned forever unless you’ve been there and can prove that there is such a place.

    We should love God because we know that God is fair and right. Right?

  29. James Gray,

    “That question though, in my opinion, doesn’t pose any challenge to God’s character and/or goodness. It seems that it would be perfectly acceptable for God to create a world in which people would have the freedom to either put their faith in Christ in order to be saved, or to reject Christ and be damned. I think that God’s decision to create – His act of creation – does not necessitate that every event within the creation (including a person’s choice) must be causally and originally predetermined by God.”

    You aren’t understanding the objection. The problem is it *does* pose an issue of the nature and character of God, because God knows that, by creating this person, that they are going to freely choose to deny him, and be lost in hell for all of eternity. Thus, by creating this person, he is dooming them to eternal punishment and suffering. Whether it is determined by God or not [what else it would be determined by I don’t know; it seems to me that, whatever determines it, should actually be the one we are worshipping], God still is the one who knowingly set these things in motion.

    We recognize that Victor Frankinstein was responsible for the monster he created even when he had no clue what that monster was going to do. Why do we now let God off the hook when he knew full well that, if he created this person, they were going to end up suffering in hell for all of eternity? It doesn’t answer the objection.

    Furthermore, I don’t think either is an objection to God’s nature and character. Why is it against God’s nature and character to punish evil? It sounds like there is a bit of humanism and rationalism in your thinking. Man is evil, and desires to do what is evil. You say that God foreordained that this man was going to do this evil; yes, but the man does the evil because he loves sin, and God ordains the evil for his own good and holy purposes.

  30. Benjamin Warkentin,

    “The answer is God’s grace and mercy. He created knowing Grandma May was going to reject Him, because Grandma May was going to have children, and her daughter Mrs. May was going to accept Him. And Mrs. May’s children were going to accept Him as well. So just because Grandma May was going to reject Jesus and be damned forever, her children were not. So yes, God does have purpose, and it’s to extend grace and mercy to everyone as He desires that no one perish but have everlasting life through His Son.”

    Simple objection though: Why did God have to cause these children to be born to Grandma May? Why couldn’t he have not created Grandma May, and had these children be born to believing parents? Then, you have no one in hell, and still have these children as believers.

    Again, what you are objecting to is theism en toto. A God who knows the future and creates is setting things in motion that will result in an inevitable outcome. That is no different morally than God making things certain by his sovereign decree.

  31. R. Kneubuhl,

    The problem is your view of man. If man is an evil sinner who delights to do his sin, rebels against God constantly, and daily suppresses the knowledge of this God in his own heart, then there is no problem with God punishing him in this way. Scripture says this is the heart of every man apart from God.

    More than that, I think one of the things we need to consider is that God is probably restraining evil most of the time. The only reason evil happens is because God ceases to restrain it. One of the tortures of hell will probably be that all of the restraint of God upon the sins of unbelievers will be completely removed, and human lust will be allowed to spill out in every way to do whatever perverted thought comes out of their head. That is how wicked man really is, and as long as we keep thinking of man as this innocent creature who just cannot help but sin, we will not see ourselves for who we are or God for who he is.

  32. Yes Adam, I admit that I am a man filled with evil thoughts and that God does have mercy on me and keep me from doing evil, but what about atheists who are very good, moral people? And Muslims too?

  33. R. Kneubuhl,

    The answer is simply that they are not “good” or “moral” from the perspective of God’s law because they have this wickedness in their own hearts. It is only the grace of God which is restraining them so that they are not this bad. For that we can be grateful, but it is not because they themselves are good, but it is because we have a good God who keeps us from doing what our hearts would otherwise desire. More than that, atheists are suppressing this truth in unrighteousness [Romans 1:18], even to the point of, not only not giving God the credit he deserves, but also not even believing that he exists. Muslims erect another God, and refuse to worship the one true God of the Bible. And yet, these people owe their very lives, and their very next breath to this God. Those things are not minor matters. They are an insult to the very God to whom they owe their life and allegiance. Can these things be forgiven by repentance and faith? Yes, most definitely. However, let us never lessen these things by saying that they are “good” or “moral” people from the perspective of God’s law. I was not before Christ saved me, and no one is until they are redeemed. As Paul says quoting the Psalms:

    Romans 3:10-18 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace have they not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

  34. I would think think that God would be the most reasonable man, being the Creator and Master of the Universe. When we stand in judgment before God, a good God should give us a ten dollar fine for a parking ticket. You get my point. A fair God wouldn’t send you to life in prison for a simple parking ticket. An atheist might say, “But God, I’ve never killed anyone and I’ve tried my best to be friendly towards all people.”

    Yes, respect towards God is important to me too, but I hope God can understand our frustration as human beings that live on Earth.

  35. R. Kneubuhl,

    The problem is, again, you are not taking seriously what Paul says about man. Does this sound like a mere parking ticket?:

    Romans 3:10-18 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace have they not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Furthermore, what does an atheist define as “good?” What does a Muslim define as “good?” Good in their own eyes? Or good from the perspective of what is found above as Paul speaks in Romans? If a person responds to God, “But God, I’ve never killed anyone and I’ve tried my best to be friendly towards all people,” I can imagine God’s response would be, “Only because I was restraining the evil within your own heart, and you still refused to give me the credit even for that, and, to top it off, you even denied that I exist.” The Biblical standard for an action not being sin is that it is done to the glory of God. No unbeliever can ever do this, because he does not believe in God, therefore, even his best actions are as filthy rags. In fact, it is wickedness to even think that they have some righteousness because they haven’t killed anyone or were friendly towards others, as if what others thought was the standard of righteousness. It is not. God looks at the heart, and a heart that is wickedly depraved in sin that has to be restrained from evil is not exactly the kind of thing that is going to go over well when you are on trial for your life.

  36. Being friendly is good. The two greatest laws are about friendship. One of them is love your neighbor. In other words, be friendly. I don’t think that it’s bad or evil to think well of another person if they are friendly. I think it’s evil to think evil of someone who has been good and friendly to you.

    But I get your point, Adam. Good points. Jesus had to suffer because of evil and that is a very important point.

    And yes again, I know that my heart is filled with evil thoughts.

  37. Adam,

    “You aren’t understanding the objection. The problem is it *does* pose an issue of the nature and character of God, because God knows that, by creating this person, that they are going to freely choose to deny him, and be lost in hell for all of eternity.”

    I’m sorry, I should not have said that it does not pose any challenge to God’s character/nature. However, I think that objection could be answered without adhering to a Calvinistic compatibilist position.

    Thanks for the dialogue – I appreciate it. I think I may have not been fully grasping some of what you were saying, or maybe we were somewhat talking past each other. As I am learning, I see that Calvinists and Arminians seem to have a lot of distinctives in common. I hope and pray that God will lead us in to all truth. In Jesus’ name, amen!

  38. Brian,

    I don’t think you believe that every individual person’s sins are forgiven, right?, but only those who believe in Christ, those and only those are forgiven. Objectively, Christ died for the sins of the whole world, true. So that anyone, if they would but come to Him by faith, their sins will be forgiven them. But the question remains, who does indeed come to the Light? Not those who love darkness, and we know that no one apart from the regenerating work of God’s Spirit will come to the light. Why? because they don’t want their sins to be exposed. They love their sin(the state and power of being in rebellion against God), and they will do what they love, and they do it freely without compulsion. They can only come to the Light if the Father draws them. God has to give us a heart of flesh that beats for God, otherwise we will not come. I realize the way around this is to posit the notion of prevenient Grace. But as my mentor James P. Sweeney(Weinbrenner T. Sem.) said to me: you will find no explicit teaching of Prevenient Grace in the New Testament; you have to assume it is there to explain how people respond to the gospel.
    I only suggested Dr. Moo because he is in the reformed camp, and Dr. Brown is not in the reformed camp. I know that Witherington is an Arminian, but I was suggesting a discussion with someone that disagrees with Dr. Brown, who also is a New Testament Scholar. Instead of James White who is an apologist, and not a Scholar. I think then you would see no longer the caricatures that I see so often regarding Reformed thought on the line of fire. Read Moo’s commentary on Romans carefully, and I think it will give you much food for thought. Respectfully yours, Bill

  39. Bill,

    I am familiar with Dr. Moo and am aware of his Reformed background and of his work on Romans. I just wanted to make it clear that other reputed scholars have a very different conclusions based on the exegesis of the Scripture. But your point is well taken in differentiating his background from James White.

    It appears that we do agree, based upon the text of Scripture previously presented, that Christ did indeed die for the sins of the world, as opposed to the fundamental tenants of Reformed Theology. We differ in that Non-Reformist understand that through his death he began drawing “all men” unto himself. He has been drawing ever since, and those who receive his offer by the grace of G-d will be saved. Again, as opposed to the Reformed persuasion, I do not see where Scripture teaches regeneration “before” salvation – and with all due respect to your mentor, I’d disagree with his statement. Titus 2:11 explicitly declares:

    “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age”

    Notwithstanding, I think it very important to note that Jesus’ desire/will for all men to be saved would work totally against the will of his Father, if in fact G-d wills to condemn the majority of mankind to eternal reprobation. That is illogical and contradictory from my standpoint and would appreciate a reconcilable deduction on this for my understanding.

    Shalom

  40. Brian,

    No we don’t agree; I am saying that Christ died for the sins of the whole world objectively. That is, the world was His object of salvation, but only those who actually believe will receive that salvation, even though it is sent to the whole world of darkness; a world alienated to the life of God. This world is opposed to the will and ways of God; this is the contrast that the writers of the gospels are trying to get the reader to see. That God is light and love, and that this world is full of darkness and hatred. You see this explained in John 6:25ff. Verse 33 states how God comes down from heaven to give life to the world, i.e. the world doesn’t have this life of its own, only Christ has that life. Obviously, the world doesn’t receive him, but only those whom the Father gives to the son(vs 37 & vs. 44) come and believe. So God comes into this world for all to see and hear without distinction. He first comes to his own, but most of his own reject him. God doesn’t come to this world privately, but for all eyes to see, and for all to believe. Now when you quoted 1 John 2:2 “and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.”NET This is simply stating that the offer is presented to the whole world without distinction. You aren’t a universalist are you? God isn’t atoning for the sins of everyone in the world is he? No, he atones for the sins of only those who believe. We agree on that last statement, but who are those who believe? Are they not those whom the Father draws(John 6:44) or whom the Father gives(John 6:37), or whom the Son chooses(John 6:70)? Even after Peter speaking for the twelve tells Jesus that they have come to believe in Him, Jesus corrects him by reminding them that it was He ultimately who did the choosing. No one is denying that the disciples did choose, but their choosing came after Jesus’ choosing them. This is the context i.e. belief, not choosing for a task, b/c most of the disciples had left Jesus when he poses his question to them on whether they are going to leave also. Do you see that? You have to do cart wheels around these verses to not see it. Yes , God has appeared to all mankind objectively in the saving work of His Son. Obviously, only a small few got to actually see the incarnation, and God’s redemptive works when he was among us. So when it says: “For the Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.” Titus 2:11 It is spoken as an offer presented to all, but certainly not given to all, but only to those who believe. Obviously all people don’t get saved, but salvation is brought near and far, not all receive this salvation that is brought near and far by God’s own sending of his Son.

    My mentor used to say to me years ago, to remember that when you read the text of scripture you are putting on your colored glasses. Brian, you have those colored glasses on. So don’t be so incredulous that someone else is interpreting the same text differently than you are. I just happen to believe that I have the better interpretation than you do, brother! blessings

  41. Bill,

    All I’ve been doing thus far is simply presenting text of Scripture, and actually it has been you attempting to qualify Jesus’ atoning sacrifice in distinction. Jesus died for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world – period. Isn’t that what John states in 1 John 2:2, with nothing added?

    “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (NIV)

    I also referenced Hebrews 2:9, demonstrating a consistent theme that Christ’s death was not limited. He died for the unsaved as well.

    “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels… so that by the grace of God he might taste death for EVERYONE.”

    This time I will present another passage in a more direct fashion in hopes that this will bring harmony to your understanding the universal atoning death of Christ.

    ” But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…” (2 Perer 2:1)

    Your exegesis of the above would really demonstrate which one of us is really wearing colored glasses as you noted. And please allow your mentor to weigh in as well.

    You referenced John 6 and G-d’s drawing. I would understand that to be to all men, as referenced in John 12, thus identifying the “who,” in that all men are drawn from Christ’s death on the cross. I believe that to be quite clear. Notwithstanding, in regards to John 3 that you previously quoted, it would behoove us to examine this as well. Jesus opened up with stating “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

    This comparative illustration was given from which Jesus likened His death on the cross as found in, Numbers 21:4-9.

    Here we find that the children of Israel were discouraged and spoke against G-d and Moses, therefore G-d sent fiery serpents to bite the people, thus many died. This resulted in the people of Israel acknowledging their sin and asking for the Lord to take away the serpents from their midst (vs.4-7). The next two verses are key.

    ” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that EVERYONE who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Num 21:8-9).

    With this before us, what does John 3:16 tell us in an “explicit” way? Jesus demonstrated by the story that everyone who is bitten, when he looks upon the serpent, will live; hence, whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life. There is “absolutely” nothing even hinted in this passage that the people did not have the ability to look upon the serpent. Hence, Jesus, by his death on the cross has initiated the enabling grace for “all” to freely receive if we/they so choose.

    But let’s talk about death. It is of your persuasion that because one is dead, he does not want G-d and cannot come to Him – given that you have denied G-d’s grace being available to all. With this in mind, we see a clear message that Jesus, himself, sought to convey to the Pharisees, a picture of G-d’s love offered to the lost. We find in the parable of the prodigal son, that he took his inheritance and left his father’s house, and upon his return the father openly stated,

    “For this my son was DEAD and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24)

    Jesus wanted to convey this message to his audience in a clear fashion because he repeated the same words to the son’s older brother (vs. 32). So, Bill, in Jesus mind (which is the mind we both should be praying for) he presented one being dead and at the same time being able to respond to the grace of G-d. How is this so? We discover that in this dead state what Jesus wanted us to see, for the son said:

    “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (vs.18).

    Again, as I previously stated, the idea of regeneration coming “before” salvation, is a philosophical approach to Scripture that cannot be demonstrated. The basic biblical message that I see consistently demonstrates a “genuine” offer of salvation presented and available to all, and those who would believe will be saved. One’s ability to accept this offer comes, not from within man apart from G-d’s grace, but because G-d’s grace has been freely poured out on all men through the death of His Son.

    One last word, as you didn’t address my offer in my previous writing, but I understand how things can be unintentionally overlooked.

    Bill, based upon your belief, please reconcile the fact that Jesus “does not” will/desire that anyone perish – in contrast to your (Reformed) belief that G-d, the Father, “does” will that most all people perish.

    Shalom

  42. Calvinist’s always give a knee jerk reaction to us saying we don’t and cannot understand calvinism. (Quite a gnostic idea). But to those naive gullible uninformed who says that Arminianism and calvinism is a false dichotomy debate; I ‘d say these people really have not understood calvinism to begin with. TULIP is certainly not argued from the bible alone, and can be easily refuted. However I agree that the debate should not be limited to the scriptures alone; since this false doctrine of calvinism is a product of philosophical misunderstanding. Calvin saw a clear paradox, contradiction between man’s freedom and God’s sovereignty. He thought only one is possible. Thus denied man’s freedom altogether allegedly glorifying God. But actually distorted the just, fair, holy nature of God who gives equal chances to all man, and is not the author of sin. Read this in parallel with the topic of this show.

    Dr Craig writes – The vast majority of them have probably little understanding of #Molinism and so are just insufficiently informed to make a decision. A few years ago I spoke at Westminster Seminary in San Diego on middle knowledge, and half way through the Q & A period following my talk, one of the faculty said, “I’m embarrassed to say, Dr. Craig, that we aren’t even able to discuss this with you because we just are completely unfamiliar with what you’re talking about.” He was embarrassed that as a professional theologian he was so ignorant of these debates. By contrast, some theologians who belong to the Reformed tradition have moved toward Molinism. When I gave the Stob lectures at Calvin College and Seminary, I was shocked when the theologians at the seminary told me that they were all Molinists! I increasingly encounter people who are moving in the Molinist direction (both from the Calvinistic end and the open theist end of the spectrum!)

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism#ixzz2uLawXp5M

    Middle knowledge gives perfect answers to the philosophical questions. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/no-other-name-a-middle-knowledge-perspective

  43. Brian,

    When I used the colored glasses illustration, you apparently did not read what I had said carefully. I talked of how Jim said to me that when I read the text of Scripture, to be aware that I will have my colored glasses on. So I was applying it to myself as much as I was applying it to you. Everyone has their presuppositions before coming to the scriptures to interpret it; you are no exception. This is a well known fact, and the more you become aware of it, the better chance you will have at coming to the text and trying to see what the authors really were trying to convey to their original recipients, and then how it applies to us.

    Also if God is drawing “all” men to His Son, then the text explicitly states that Christ will lose “none” of those that the Father has given to him. Therefore, all will be saved! But again, I repeat myself, we know that, according to the whole tenure of the New Testament, not all will be saved. Thus God isn’t drawing all mankind to himself. Once again you are assuming prevenient Grace is explicitly being taught in the Scriptures, and it isn’t. Your reading your own theology into the text; Brian, it isn’t there. You have to assume it to find it. I have already stated in my first entry here, that I once held to prevenient Grace(b/c I was a Wesleyian Arminian), so I know what I am talking about. I held to this view for 25 years, so I am not talking to you as a stranger in this view point. Nor am I speaking to you disrespectfully. But you can’t see that, b/c a lot is lost in this form of communication.

    So again I will go on a little further, if Christ atoned for all peoples sins, then all mankind will be saved in the end. But we know that not all mankind gets saved in the end, b/c the scripture states it clearly. If Christ atoned for all mankinds sins, then what about the people who go to hell? Their sins were atoned for! But they are in hell, how could that be? If their sins were atoned for, they wouldn’t be there at all, b/c hell is for those whose sins are “not” atoned for who will be there. So what might be said to explain that text of scripture is that when Christ died on the cross that “potentially” their sins will be atoned for on the condition that they believe, right? So he was the atoning sacrifice to those who will believe. For God knows who will ultimately believe in the end. Therefore, the atoning sacrifice is “limited to those who believe” right? This is what you have to conclude to make “simple”(as you say) sense of the scriptures. (Oh by the way, the fundamentalists, and cultists quote the simple sense of scripture too!). Many have played that game! But I don’t want to play that game with you. You have to do(as I have to do too) the hard work of interpreting the text of scripture, you can’t just throw the text at me as if it is a trump card on your side. Sorry nice try, but I’m not a simpleton. Maybe you see me as a heretic, I don’t see you as one, but only as someone who thinks he has interpreted the scriptures as they ought to be interpreted.

    John chpt 3: Jesus talks to Nicodemus and tells him that one can’t enter the kingdom of God unless he is born a second time, or born from above(either translation is acceptable). So does a child in the womb choose to come into existence? Certainly not! Neither does the child of God choose to come into existence spiritually, but once he/she does come into existence, he/she does then choose doesn’t he? But I won’t go any further Brian. I think you should do some further reading of those who you disagree with to try to understand what their position is, to have better arguments. You should be able to defend, if called to, the positions of your opponents. If you can you will be in a better place at argueing against them. I think our dialogue is a fruitless one, sorry, but I don’t think it will go anywhere. Take care!

  44. Bill,

    I find that your elitist approach seems to be the common attitude that I run into with Reformist on this subject. The idea that you are so informed of the positions and that I (we) don’t understand is a poor approach to this dialogue, nor are you a victim as well. Statements like:

    “I think you should do some further reading of those who you disagree with to try to understand what their position is, to have better arguments.”

    and, ” Maybe you see me as a heretic, I don’t see you as one, but only as someone who thinks he has interpreted the scriptures as they ought to be interpreted.”

    Honestly, you can do better in an attempt to substantiate your position than this. I assure you that I have studied these issues for many years and know both sides very well. You speak of colored glasses; however, your open letter suggested Dr. Moo as a guest because he follows the text wherever they lead. Thus your statement is self-defeating and hypocritical in the point that you attempted to raise. Your arguments are nothing new to me at all, and comes as the same classic approach from which I totally disagree with, and that on exegetical reasons alone.

    Again, you continue to give me your philosophical deduction on your theology, but when asked to reconcile basic scriptures demonstrating a consistent pattern, you just blow them off and pretend that you were never asked to exegete them. Instead, you are more comfortable with discussing your reasonings as your response. 2 Peter 2:1 still awaits you.

    Notwithstanding, as you so noted that this isn’t going anywhere – I will attempt to keep this simple and will try this again, for a third consecutive time, in hopes that you can give an honest reply so that I can read and ponder.

    Bill, based upon your belief, please reconcile the fact that Jesus “does not” will/desire that anyone perish – in contrast to your (Reformed) belief that G-d, the Father, “does” will and purpose that most all people perish.

    Shalom

  45. Brian,

    My suggestion to Dr. Brown for a dialogue with Moo on the issue of election, b/c he follows the text where ever it leads, is really made by N.T. Wright, when he says that Moo is a better theologian than D.A. Carson. I was explaining that though Moo is in the reformed camp, he will more likely allow the text to ultimately determine the meaning, not necessarily reformed thinking. That is all I was saying regarding my comment. So Wright was making the point that Moo will less likely be influenced by his theological tradition than someone in his own camp. Bottom line, he is a world renown New Testament Scholar; this is well known, and this is why I made the suggestion. I like James White, and enjoyed listening to Brown and White dialogue on the issue, but I thought it could be explained much better from a Master teacher, and be much more penetrating on the issue. It was rather an innocent suggestion. I listen to Dr. Brown almost every day, even though I disagree with his take on this issue.

    If you have studied this issue very well on both sides why are you wasting your time asking me these questions? And therefore, you would know reformed interpretation amongst the past and present theologians. Go to them and read them and you will do much better with them than reading my selective responses to you. Yes, I have to be selective given the restraints of this kind of blog. But two can play this game, I gave you several verses and gave my interpretations and you haven’t responded to me either. Elitist? No, not at all. I was merely stating the facts. I do a lot of theological reading and reflection, and I have been doing it for 3 decades, even my Pastor has said that very few do the type of reading and thinking that I do. Maybe you do understand the issues and that your just playing games with me; but, I am trying to follow what you have said, and I don’t think you are interested in hearing what I have to say at all, but are just using my responses to mock me and what you don’t believe in. That is why I have decided that I am wasting my time and yours on this issue. Again if you know well both sides of the issue then why bother. You initially engaged me, I didn’t engage you. I was simply making a suggestion to Dr. Brown what would be a “more” worthy discussion on this issue over the air ways. Maybe I should have been more careful of how I expressed it. Anyway that is as far as I want to go with you; you will do better by doing your own reading on it, than to listen to me. Bill

Leave Your Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*