527 Comments
  1. I am thankful for faithful Christians of the past but I want to understand the Scriptures above all. I am a Calvanist because I have come to understand the Scriptures as I have, not at all because I read Calvin, whom I did not until much later read.

    So I ask to be taken seriously based upon the Scripture alone, as I hope all others would.

  2. 1 John 2:2
    And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

    Bravo! Thank you Eric

    Could it be any clearer? NO disrespect meant, but this isn’t just good news, this is GREAT NEWS!

  3. Thanks for responding, Big Tex. You wrote:

    It does not say to make sure you are called and elected. It says to do something to yourself that has the effect of producing the sureness of your calling and election.

    That’s how I read this, too:

    (2 Peter 1:10) “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure…”

    (Focusing on the word “make” here. If calling and election are predetermined to be, why would anyone have to “make” it “sure?” This implies a freewill act.)

    Yes, we have a part to play when we are called. That is, respond and grow in our Lord. And that is a choice.

    Now Jonah had a choice…he didn’t want to tell the people of Ninevah what God wanted him to. He knew they didn’t want to hear it, he was sure they’d be hard on him. So he avoided and avoided, in essence, choosing to disobey. So God gave Jonah the consequences of his (Jonah’s) own decision. Then Jonah had a few days to reflect on it. And then he decided it was better to just obey God.

    This is completely consonant with the scroll Moses was to have placed in the Ark of the Covenant re: the blessing and the curse. The curse was the consequence of disobedience. The blessing was the consequence of obedience. There is a choice we can make. But there are also consequences. If there were no choices, there wouldn’t be an either/or consequence.

    This is very fatherly of God, I think. We’re not controlled, but we have consequences for our actions…

  4. Eric,

    I am not questioning if God will love even the unsaved with the love of John 3:16. He will love even the unsaved with this love.

    The point is that it that this love of John 3:16 does not ensure the salvation of anyone because a person may be so loved by God, as you said, and not be saved because the person rejects God. God loves people with this love who actually go to Hell, having rejected God.

    What I want to say is there is a greater love in Ephesians 2 (and other passages) that is so great that it comes to the rejecting heart of all those God loves with this love and gets that heart pumping and feeling, He makes it alive with this great love. This great love actually gives those who are loved by it faith to believe, so that no one can be loved with this love and go to Hell. It is not possible because this great love does everything, leaving nothing to the helpless, dead, and poor sinner. It gives the sinner eyes to see, hears to hear, a heart to feel the goodness of God so that the sinner will come without exception to God. This is the love with which Ephesians says that all those who are saved have been loved with.

  5. So you think God loves someone more once they come into faith? Or once they love God? I see Scripture to the contrary;

    1 John 4:10
    In this is love, NOT that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    So we have to understand, God loved us and sent Jesus to die for our sins, the question isn’t who God loves unconditionally, it’s rather.. Who did Jesus die for? I believe 1 John 2:2 answers that precisely.

  6. Eric,

    No I am not saying at all that God loves a person for believing or loving Him.

    Exactly the opposite, I say that the great love of Eph 2 loves based upon nothing within the sinner, rather God loves with this great love dispite the sinner. God’s love here fulfills the need for new birth and faith, it gives both. It gives the salvation and the faith that receives it, so that no one may boast. This is whyone cannot be loved by this love and go to Hell. All that in Eph 2 is the greatness of it.

  7. Nathaniel,

    You don’t seem to understand, if someone is prideful and hateful of others and consistently so. And if that person persecutes those with whom he disagrees to the point of killing them and also mistreats people in all sorts of ways, that is not a godly person. It may be a saved person; I do not make that call, but it CERTAINLY IS NOT A GODLY PERSON TO BE EMULATED. And that is precisely the point about Calvin. I did not invent his sinful actions and pridefulness and hatred. Those are documented facts about the man. Gordon provides this throughout his book.

    “Now, the question I have is why are reviews from Reformed people still positive about this book and Calvin?’

    Simple, because Gordon accurately presents Calvin.

    “I don’t exalt Calvin above anyone else.”

    You seem to exalt him as do other calvinists. If I described a contemporary pastor as someone who was prideful and hateful and killed his theological opponents and mistreated lots of people. Would you say he was a godly person, a person to be respected and imitated? NO. But when it comes to Calvin, biblical standards go out the window and you calvinists will do whatever you can to defend his character and actions. Simply because it is Calvin. Again, if it were a contemporary pastor you wouldn’t be doing it. And if you would do so with contemporary pastors then that shows you don’t make your evaluations according to biblical standards.

    “It seems to me that Calvin was just like any of us – prone to sin deception by our own hearts.”

    Sure we are all sinners and all fall short of God’s standards. But the standards for someone in leadership are higher and explicitly stated in the biblical texts. We do not lower our standards because it is Calvin, or anyone else for that matter. Instead we evaluate by what the bible says about leaders.

    “But to call him a poor pastor, I think goes too far.”

    Have you even read Gordon’s book????

    Did you read how he handled those with whom he disagreed????

    “For one, some of greatest pastors in history (the English Puritans) were trained in Geneva.”

    I am not talking about other people, I am talking about John Calvin.

    “Secondly, I’ve heard many Reformation scholars that have said he was very good pastor though he had faults especially with pride.”

    A “very good pastor” even though he was extremely prideful? What bible are these people reading? Doesn’t it explicitly say that God HATES PRIDE AND OPPOSES THE PROUD AND GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE??

    “Third, to judge Calvin by the preface of one book is pretty harsh, to judge him by one book -no matter how good the book- is pretty harsh.”

    I am not evaluating him ***simply by the preface***, I quoted the preface as it makes it real clear what kind of person Calvin was. Check out the rest of the book for ***example after example after example*** that confirms what Gordon says in that preface about Calvin. Again, if I pointed to some contemporary pastor who was extremely prideful and hateful and did all sorts of things to people he disagreed with, to the point of killing them: would you say they were godly people who were demonstrating Christian character? But it’s Calvin so you calvinists go into justification mode. Do whatever it takes to justify his sin and make him seem better than he really was.

    “I’ll make the point I made before, Calvin was wrong to say that Servetus should die (he was right about Servetus’ terrible theology), and he was wrong about the Anabaptists. But we should also consider his culture and times before we pass judgment on him.”

    Again what he and the Reformers did to Anabaptists and others like Servetus was unjustified torture and murder. That is not justified in any age of Christianity (again we are not in the theocracy of Israel). Now if calvinists were honest and admitted these things were wrong and did not try to justify these evils, I could respect that. But to try to justify these things (Oh he was just a child of his times . . .) and present a picture of Calvin and some of the others as godly men, as men manifesting Christian character is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth.

    Robert 777

  8. Of course, no one is arguing about the soveignty of God.

    There are good kinds of authority, however, and bad kinds.

    Bad would be like totalitarian governments, or any abuse of power.

    Good would be placing boundaries out of love and the desire to protect.

    When God acts in His sovereign role of Father, protecting us from harm (all types) and teaching us to trust and obey Him, this is good authority. But if we are disobedient, there has to be a “stick” if you will, otherwise, we will continue to disobey.

    So we always have a choice; something we wouldn’t have if God was a control-freak.

  9. Harold, what about passages such as “God has no respect of persons”, if what you are saying is true and God does love, say, you more than me. Isn’t that a respect of persons?

  10. “Let’s pray for Gregory to come to know the Lord in a much richer and deeper way and for the Lord to grant him repentance for the error of his ways.”

    Great idea, Dr. Brown. Let us all pray! In His Holy Name

  11. Eric,

    You say, “if what you are saying is true and God does love, say, you more than me. Isn’t that a respect of persons?”

    Most definitely not, because I am saying that God gives no respect to persons whatsoever, but rather saves based upon the goodness of His will alone. I would be saying Vod has respect of persons if I were saying that God saves based upon how spiritual a person is, or how much good someone is, or how spiritually sensitive someone is, but I am not. If you back up from Ephesians 2 to chapter 1 you will see that God chose whom He would save based “according to the purpose of His will”. So it is God’s good will that determines and not the terrible, sinful will of those the Bible calls haters of God in Romans 3.

  12. Yes, God chooses us in the Lord. We are the elect according to foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2).

    I’d still like to stick to the point, I was trying to make before which is – “the question isn’t who God loves unconditionally (which I believe He loves all unconditionally by the way), it’s rather.. Who did Jesus die for? I believe 1 John 2:2 answers that precisely.”

  13. RE: Bad pastors

    Bad pastors can do a lot of damage. I once belonged to a sect which was started in the late 1880’s. This man was charismatic, and passionate, and full of zeal, but he also had serious problems, and one of them was pride. He couldn’t stand opposition and frequently denounced people as going “to hell” — as if it were his decision. He turned out to be a false prophet, too, because what he prophesied did NOT come to pass.

    Nonetheless, his followers covered up his history. Even to this day, they deny the facts. But these facts were brought to light in the last 40 years and in a way that is irrefutable. Followers today refuse to even consider them.

    One of the things he did was pronounce all other churches as false and declare his branch to be the “only true” church. As a result, more pride set in and people began to look down on others as “outsiders,” outside the grace of God. Self-righteousness began to grow like a cancer.

    Right now, the church is actually shrinking, as more and more people question certain man-made rules and the fact that they are supposed to be the “only ones” who will be saved.

    So yes, God will still work to save people despite people like that, but there is no doubt that bad leaders do a great deal of damage and need to be seen as they are.

  14. Harold said, “I simply mean that faith is the open hand to God, receiving the power, healing, and salvation of God.

    Would you agree?”

    This seems like a reasonable illustration of faith Harold. God extends His free gift of grace and we open our hands to receive it by faith.

    Yes, I like this. Thank for your illustration.

    Greg

  15. Hello Ruth,

    Reading your comments I am wondering if you even noticed the parallels to your experience and the behavior of some calvinists?

    I have done a lot of work with non-Christian cults and one thing that is alarming about some calvinists is that their method of interpreting the bible (i.e. proof texting in order to defend support and promote the Calvinistic system) and their actions are remarkably similar to how non-Christian cults handle things. It is almost as if some of them are like a Christian cult within Christianity.

    “Bad pastors can do a lot of damage.”

    Yes and their actions should not be excused. Even if their name happens to be John Calvin.

    “I once belonged to a sect which was started in the late 1880’s. This man was charismatic, and passionate, and full of zeal, but he also had serious problems, and one of them was pride. He couldn’t stand opposition and frequently denounced people as going “to hell” — as if it were his decision.”

    Cultic leaders are often charismatic (personality, not beliefs about the gifts) and prideful people. They are seldom humble people.

    And as you state here a common element is that they and their teachings are to be believed and anyone disagreeing or challenging their beliefs needs to be severely dealt with. It is also quite common for them to denounce others who disagree with them or their teachings.

    “Nonetheless, his followers covered up his history. Even to this day, they deny the facts.”

    This is also quite common among cults, the originators and early leaders are represented in a way very different from what they really were and did.

    “But these facts were brought to light in the last 40 years and in a way that is irrefutable. Followers today refuse to even consider them.”

    And that is how some calvinists are with Calvin. The facts are coming out and Gordon in his biography does a good job presenting precisely what kind of person Calvin was and what he did. Particularly alarming is the hatefulness and pride and treatment of those with whom he disagreed. And have you noticed how even murder of those who disagree with you is justified as merely him being a child of his times. I have read about the Reformers and though there were things that they did which were good (getting the bible into the hands of the common people, e.g. Luther translating the bible into German), they also had some actions that are absolutely inexcusable (e.g. the treatment of the Anabaptists).

    “One of the things he did was pronounce all other churches as false and declare his branch to be the “only true” church.”

    Sounds like certain calvinists as well. Some will speak as if they alone are saved, as if a non-Calvinist cannot be saved. As if a non-Calvinist presents a false gospel. As if non-Calvinists are all false teachers and apostates. It should be noted that pride and hatred of others go very well with each other. And yet hatred of others and pride are serious sins that a genuine believer will not be practicing (see 1 John for lots of texts on this).

    “As a result, more pride set in and people began to look down on others as “outsiders,” outside the grace of God. Self-righteousness began to grow like a cancer.”

    Again, look at some calvinists and you see exactly the same things. For a group that professes belief in the grace of God they can be some of the most arrogant and hateful and self-righteous people that you will ever encounter. They can also be very divisive and causing lots of confusion among believers.

    “Right now, the church is actually shrinking, as more and more people question certain man-made rules and the fact that they are supposed to be the “only ones” who will be saved.”

    Again, look at many of these Calvinistic churches and you see the same thing. It’s us four and no more!

    “So yes, God will still work to save people despite people like that, but there is no doubt that bad leaders do a great deal of damage and need to be seen as they are.”

    Right so when are we going to hear calvinists being honest about the sinful actions of the Reformers including Calvin? When will they drop the double standard of justifying the Reformers when they would never justify contemporary church leaders or pastors who engaged in the same actions??

    Robert 777

  16. Rather than repeatedly writing the “other Robert says”, I request that just as I have done, he adds some other detail so that we know exactly which Robert is posting. Of course the other Robert can **choose** to ignore my request and continue to lead me to use this ponderous phrase “the other Robert says . . .”.

    Well the other Robert wrote:

    ““If your ‘Will’ is what determines things…What determines your will?”

    This is a kind of strange comment to me. The other Robert writes as if we have a “will” which is separate from us. So you have **us** controlling our wills. I prefer to see it as we are a will. Each person is an individual will then. The “will” is simply a term used to refer to the capacity within us to make choices from choices that we have. Free will then means that someone has and then makes their own choices, their choices not being necessitated by some factor outside of them, or antecedent to them, or inside of them.

    I am also wondering what the other Robert means when he says “What determines your will?” Is there something or someone else who controls our wills and so causes us to do what we end up doing? Like the puppet master controlling his puppets by pulling their strings?

    And what does he mean by “determines”? Does he mean there is something that necessitates our actions? Something besides us that causes our actions? If I say “what determines your decisions” it seems that I am differentiating between YOU and something besides YOU that controls or necessitates what you do. But I don’t buy that someone else is controlling us like a puppet. I don’t buy that something outside of us or even inside of us necessitates our actions. We have what Thomas Reid called the active power. Reid was referring to this capacity that we have, that we were created with, to be capable of doing our own actions and making our own choices. God decided to create human persons as actual persons who were independent beings. Not independent of God’s presence, or power, or God’s interventions, but actual persons, not just puppets.

    Thomas Reid who held a pretty good notion of free will used to talk about the “active power” that God created us with. By this term he meant not that we have unlimited power that rivals God’s power. Or power that is never limited or interfered with by other persons (including God). What he meant by this term is that God created us with certain capacities. I suggest having experienced it myself and observed it with others, that we have a capacity to actualize one possibility rather than another when we have a choice (we call that having and then making a choice).

    Again, back to the class example. If I am sitting in class and I have the choice of either raising my hand and asking a question or keeping my hand down and not asking the question during class. Using Reid’s terminology, I have the active power to do either action. It is in my power to choose to raise my hand and it is also within my power to choose not to raise my hand in class. And this active power is contextual meaning that ordinarily I could choose to raise my arm or choose to keep it down. But we can think of circumstances in which my active power is interfered with. Say I am a child sitting in class and a much larger adult person comes up to me and grabs my arm and forces it up into the air, or I want to raise my arm but the much larger adult holds my arm down. We would easily recognize this as a case of coercion, in which my active power is definitely interfered with.

    What Reid was getting at however is how do things work when we are not being coerced, when we are acting freely. When acting freely due to having active power, we can actualize different possibilities. And we have this ability, this capacity because God made us that way. He made us capable of doing our own actions and choosing our own actions. He made us in such a way that we have a mind and we can move and control our own bodies when we do things. He does not control us the way a puppet master controls his puppets (i.e. the master controls the puppets directly, continuously and completely so that the puppet only and always does what the master controls it to do). Instead he creates us as independent beings who have limited active power over our own actions. And as He is God he can intervene in a situation so that our active power is suspended for a time. But like coercion, that is not ordinarily the case. Ordinarily we have active power and we exercise it when we do our own actions.

    Reid and others have also called this self-determination meaning that we, ourselves, cause our intentional actions (absent intervention by other agents, or other things). A self determined action comes from us, it is not derived from some sort of antecedent causal chain that moves through us necessitating our action. If you want to see a simple example of self determination look at God himself. When he chooses to do an action and does so freely, there is no causal chain running through him necessitating his action. He is not forced to do what he does. He has choices where he can actualize one possibility or another (e.g. he could have chosen to not create but in fact he chose to create). When he acts he does so for reasons and in light of what is important to Him. In a word God Himself has active power and his own actions are self-determined. Now a big difference is that his active power is limited only by Himself (which is why it sometimes says in the Word that when he wants to do something no one can stop him or prevent him from doing what he wants to do). In our case our active power is much more limited. It is finite and influenced by other factors. In writing this post assuming that I did so freely, I had the choice to write this post or to not write this post. I had the choice to post it now or post it later. I chose what words to use or not use in expressing myself here. And as far as I know, none of my choices was coerced. I made some choices and did not make others. In all of this my actions though limited and finite, were self-determined or caused by ME.

    Robert 777

  17. Robert said, “For a group that professes belief in the grace of God they can be some of the most arrogant and hateful and self-righteous people that you will ever encounter. They can also be very divisive and causing lots of confusion among believers.”

    Yes, this is true in some cases. Additionally, I often hear from Calvinists how their new understanding of doctrine has “humbled” them. Some Calvinists literally comment, a bit too frequently, on the degree of their humility.

  18. Robert 777,

    I liked your points about our will not being a separate entity and such.

    I was wondering…in the case of someone that is demon possessed, does he maintain his ability to choose? What of the Holy Spirit “possessing” us, if there is exactly such a thing? Is there a choice or a series of choices that cause us to then not be able to make choices any more?

    From my experience, there are situations where, say for example, an alcoholic can’t seem to make the right choice. There seems to be a difference with the Holy Spirit as we are asked to cooperate, be co-laborers if you will, with Him. Thus the imperatives, “walk in the Spirit, be led of the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit” etc.

    Doesn’t it seem that the spirits that take control of us so that we cannot choose are the evil ones? This is part of what causes me to be a bit leery of total Calvinism/determinism. Maybe I could be a 3 and half point Calvinist, but not a 5 point one.

  19. Thanks, Robert.

    I’ve been ignorant of Calvin and I mentioned my story regarding this sect because it did seem to have parallels to some of the ideas in the posts I have read. But I’ve been reading up on John Calvin to correct this deficiency.

    I think it’s very valid to look at the character of the leader or artist, or cultural scene-changer, and not just the work they’ve done. History tends to focus on their products or fruits more than on them as people; but in fact, who they are, that is, what their character is, needs to be taken into account. Someone may write beautiful thoughts but be cruel in hidden moments. This is really hypocrisy.

    What I’ve read of John Calvin seems to suggest to me that he had a more hidden character which informed his perspective on the gospels. That hidden character was not the charitable, humanitarian kind of person, but someone who may not have even liked humanity that much. Knowing this, I can understand why there is an exclusivism which comes out in Calvinistic expression. Otherwise it would just be the gospel, not “Calvinism.”

    Also, I think Yoh Kovelic’s remarks earlier regarding “time” are valid points of consideration. God’s sense of time allows Him to have foreknowledge of what we’ll do, but this doesn’t mean we aren’t free to accept or reject what He offers. If a person is watching a train from a hill and can see how it will wreck and says so, that doesn’t mean they caused the wreck to be. By proclaiming the future, this is one more way that God is saying His thoughts are higher than ours. When the predicted event comes to pass, we tend to have more belief in Him as God, as having the higher perspective. But the purpose of him predicting the future, I feel, is so that we (all) will listen to Him and be saved. I still believe the Gospel is meant for all, and I believe that God calls all. For some, the cares of the world choke out the word. The seeds fall where they fall. But if they were only falling on certain ones, they would never even fall on the rocky places.

    Does God play favorites? Let’s not put it that way. He has favorites, yes, but they are based not out of respect of persons (which is an outward judgement) but on the inner qualities of the heart. Let’s remember that he told Cain that sin was lurking. He told him that his sacrifice could be acceptable IF…so God was trying to work with Cain. He didn’t just arbitrarily take a shine to Abel. It was the heart-condition of Abel which appealed to God. Likewise with David. Despite David’s failures, his heart pleased God.

    Would Calvin’s heart please God? I don’t know, but I think Calvin’s heart needed to be purified. I think the more hidden attributes within his heart strongly influenced his views. His eloquence and intellectual gifts, however, were impressive enough to win converts.

    Just some reflections so far…

  20. Eric,

    There is a sense in which God died for every person, that is so that all of humanity may be given the command to believe with the promise of salvation if one does. However, what I have been trying to communicate is the greatness with which God loved the elect in His life, death, and resurrection so as to secure their salvation. My point has been that this “great love” shown by Jesus for His bride and no one else is a very great love that should be embraced and enjoyed by the redeemed. It is this love that should motivate them to serve God completely for the joy that He gives. So I really want you see in the Scriptures the greatness of the love with which Christ has loved those in the Beloved.

    So I ask you do you see what I’m receding to in Eph 2? I’m talking about how God made us alive to God, when we were dead, how God gave us the faith with which to receive Christ, and so a new nature that is no longer one of a child of wrath, but rather one of a recipient of free grace.

    Basically I want you to feel the weight of how all of these things are things that God does, and none of them are as a result of anything we do. This is an encredibly liberating thing, and an empowering.

    It’s liberating because if finally puts the nail in the coffen of self-righteousness and pride, and it frees you to enjoy God, knowing that that you are off the hook, as it were. It empowers you because it says that not only has your salvation been predestined, and so out of your hands, but the fact is that you have been predestined to be freed to do good works. This chapter is amazing! I think I understand it, and I want everyone else to taste of the goodness of it as well.

  21. Harold, I can see how you come to your perspective, I just differ. Thank you for explaining to me why you believe what you do. I believe we don’t need to deal with any self righteousness or pride after believing in the Lord, simply because we have nothing to boast about.

    When you say “knowing you are off the hook”, I am curious if you can elaborate on this. Are you saying that yes Jesus did die and shed His blood for everyone but – we aren’t off the hook until … (fill in the blank please, this is where I got confused)

    As this is an interesting somewhat of a 4 Pt. Calvinistic point of view, I am just curious what you would say.

    Thanks Harold, and I enjoy fellowshipping with you on here!

  22. Sorry – I also wanted to ask a question based on something else you had said; (actually it was the first sentence)

    “There is a sense in which God died for every person, that is so that all of humanity may be given the command to believe with the promise of salvation if one does.”

    Is it possible for all of humanity to obey this command? I guess I am asking, “is everyone able to obey this?” ?

    Thanks.

  23. With regard to Ephesians 2 and total depravity…

    It’s not logical to believe that someone who’s about to perish would be self-righteous, boastful, or prideful after having been saved. If I’m moments from falling to my death and someone throws me a rope I’m not going to subsequently brag about how I grabbed the rope. This is just a silly, defenseless argument.

    If a person is saved in this manner they’re going to be very thankful and appreciative to the person that saved them. They would not be dancing a jig and boasting about how they saved themselves.

    I’ve made this counter before, but I just wanted to reiterate it because it really strikes me as absurd. Sorry, it’s just how I feel about it.

  24. The bottom line is that I’ve heard countless hundreds of testimonies of salvation from non-Calvinists, and I never once heard the slightest hint of boasting in those testimonies, except for boasting in the Lord and His grace and mercy! Who would ever think for a split second that somehow, because we received God’s gracious gift of salvation and were showered with His totally unmerited mercy that we could “boast” about this? Of course not!

  25. Eric,

    I should start by saying, as you know, I first want to be biblical. This I cludes my belief in all five points.

    I do not have time to answer all your questions now, but I’ll try to answer the question about atonment. I do believe that God’s sacrifice on the cross if for every person in the sense of John 3:16, that is so that whoever believes will be saved.

    But I must point out that in a direct way Jesus clearly says later in the Gospel of John that He would lay His life down for His sheep. His death is directly for them in the sense that it secures not only salvation generally but faith in particular. This is for those who He choses because Jesus says to those who are not saved in John 10:26, “You do not believe, because you are not my sheep.” This turns what most evangelicalls think backwards, for most seem to think that you become a sheep of Jesus by believing, whereas Jesus says that these people do not believe because they are His sheep. Another nearby statement of Jesus to this end is in John 8:47, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God, the reason you do not hear the is that you are not of God.” Again, God is the one who causes salvation at every level.

    You ask if every person could be saved. I must very clearly say YES. But this has nothing to do with the ability of people to be saved because Jesus said in John 6, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” As soon as our American, evengalical minds (I include myself) ask ourselves this question about if every person could believe and be saved, we tend to think in terms of “If they believe” or “If they do this or if we do that”. However, to be biblical we must think in terms of “Could God chose to save every person?” The answer is yes, and whoever He choses to save He will save. This is why we can with confidence go into all the world and preach the Good News, being sure that God will save some from every tribe, language, people, and nation because Rev 9:5 says that those are the people that Jesus bought back with His blood. So there is most certianly a particularity with which God saves the elect in John’s writings and in the Bible at large.

  26. Eric,

    With regard to Ephesians 2, I cannot answer all you said now but I must say that you have not at all interacted with what I have pointed out textually in my many previous posts on Eph 2.

  27. Harold, Amen to Jesus laying down His life for His sheep, (where was the verse that said “only for His sheep”?) Or, as I’ve heard this before, “become one of His sheep then by repenting and putting your faith in Jesus”. (I suppose this could answer to your objection with John 10:26 as well)..Also in regards to John 6, doesn’t Jesus say that He will draw all to Himself?

    Harold, I don’t see the big emphasis on Ephesians 2:4 when it speaks of “great love”, as I’ve said before this is not some new type of love. Great is just an adjective describing love. I am sure you can say any love from God is great.

    Greg and Dr. Brown answered the boasting idea that you were getting at, if that is what you mean by Ephesians 2:8? Perhaps you can just clarify for me what I did not address, sorry if I missed one of your points.

  28. Greg,

    You say, “This seems like a reasonable illustration of faith Harold. God extends His free gift of grace and we open our hands to receive it by faith.”

    This is true as far as it goes, but I should also say that when we open our hand we only do so because such faith is its self also something that’s given by God in Eph 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not from yourselves, it is the gift from God.”

    The “that” that’s not from the person but from God is not limited to faith but it grammatically and obviously inlcudes faith. So even the faith that we have that saves is also given my God.

    Therefore, in my examply, would it not be biblical to say that even the opening of the hand that receives salvation is from God.

  29. No. I strongly disagree Harold. The “gift” was the broken body and shed blood of Jesus (grace). For God so loved the World that He GAVE His Son. Jesus is ultimately the gift of Ephesians 2:8 not faith.

    Again, you are trying to support pre-faith regeneration (God regenerates people in order to “open their hand” [believe]) here which cannot be true (among other reasons) because of the many Old & New Testament accounts of people believing in God/Jesus for an extended period before His Resurrection.

    The definition of grace is receiving pardon or mercy. The bible says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9). Thus, before the Resurrection, no one (OT & NT) had received God’s pardon. Everyone was still under the curse of death, guilty before God, and dead in trespasses and sins – they were not yet forgiven because the blood of Christ had not been shed. However, there are numerous examples of people that believed in Him prior to this event. You can’t be simultaneously born-again and dead in trespasses and sins.

    In summation, spiritually DEAD people had faith in Him long before the blood-stained cross. Therefore, we need not be regenerated in order to believe.

    Does God draw us? Are we quickened by His Spirit? Yes, but in my opinion, this does not equate spiritual rebirth.

  30. Greg,

    You have to deal with Ephesians 2 and especially verse 8 rather than importing your theological presumptions and making what you see are logical conclusions.

    The text says, “By grace you have been saved through faith and THAT is not from yourselves; IT is the gift of God, not from works, so that no one may boast.”

    More than faith is given here, but faith is obviously and grammatically given its self, both in English and especially in Greek.

  31. Harold wrote:

    “So I ask you do you see what I’m receding to in Eph 2? I’m talking about how God made us alive to God, when we were dead, how God gave us the faith with which to receive Christ,”

    Harold is stating an old error first originated by Augustine and believed by many calvinists ever since. The error which Augustine invented was to suggest that God gives a gift of faith only to some whom he has preselected for salvation. This **assumes** unconditional election and then Augustine read it into the text of Ephesians 2 arguing that the “gift” referred to was faith. There are plenty of good studies on this showing this error and showing the better interpretation of “gift” in Ephesians 2 (here is a very good one:

    http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/reformed/godgift.htm

    So I just want to make a few observations about Ephesians 2 and the nature of saving faith. Some determinists speak of faith as if it were a thing or substance that God doles out to only certain people. This is why Augustine was attracted to Ephesians 2 as a proof texts (he reasoned that if faith was a literal thing like a gift, and if it were only given to some, then only those to whom it was given would ever be saved: this is of course all very convenient and exactly what Augustine wanted to believe so Ephesians 2 was a perfect proof text for this). But faith is not a thing or substance given only to certain preselected people. No, faith is a choice to place your confidence or trust in something or someone. It is a decision of where we are going to place our confidence. God explicitly says that he desires for all to be saved and that he provided Christ as an atonement for all. The Holy Spirit then comes along and works in a powerful way in the heart of the nonbeliever revealing things to him/her. The Spirit reveals their spiritual condition to them (i.e. a sinner who is separated from God due to their sins), God’s plan of salvation through Christ (i.e., that we cannot save ourselves and placing our confidence in our own works to save us is misplaced confidence: the only proper object of our faith is God and what He has done; that God provides salvation through Christ; that a person must completely rely upon and trust in Christ’s work not his own to save him/her), reveals scripture to them (apart from the Spirit we cannot understand God’s word and so He illuminates it for the nonbeliever,) etc. etc. Without the work of the Spirit a person cannot come to faith in Christ (c.f. Jn. 6:44). So the work of the Spirit puts you in a position where you can choose to trust in Christ alone for your salvation.

    By making the “Augustine error” people see faith not as a decision to trust which must be made by a person, but as a thing or substance that is given to a person. Augustine messed up on the Greek of Ephesians 2 and he was **reading in** the deterministic assumptions that he wanted to see in the text of scripture. Some Calvinists used to really push this error to prove their false doctrines. When it was shown that the Greek does not support “gift” referring to faith, but rather referring to salvation. The new updated version of the “Augustine error” is to claim: “well faith is a part of salvation so if salvation is a gift given to people, then so is faith.” Sort of the “package deal” approach. But notice the same error is present: treating and conceiving of faith as a thing or substance that is given only to some. Faith is always a personal decision to place your confidence in something or someone. The apostle John describes it simply when he writes: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name” (Jn. 1:12). How do we receive Christ? By faith alone. When the Phillipian Jailer asked Paul: what must I do to be saved?” Paul responded that what he had to do was trust in the Lord. In Colossians Paul said that our daily walk with the Lord is also by faith and that our saving relationship with God began by faith: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord [how did that happen? Again by faith] so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). In the process of salvation God does some incredible things, things we do not deserve and do not merit in any way (so the bible describes them as the grace of God) including: He justifies us, He forgives us, He reconciles us to Himself, He provides atonement and applies the atonement to us individually, He adopts us into the family of God, He gives us new life, , He gives us His Spirit, He empowers us for ministry and doing good works, and He glorifies/changes our body preparing it for the eternal state. But WE have to choose to trust Him after the Holy Spirit has revealed things to us in order to be saved. God will not have faith for us, God will not possess us and cause us to have faith, and God will not control us and then manipulate us like a puppet having its strings being pulled so that we end up having faith. No, it is our action, our choice, enabled but not necessitated by the Spirit. And it is not a thing or substance given only to a select few.

    Robert 777

  32. Hello “Big Tex”,

    “I liked your points about our will not being a separate entity and such.
    I was wondering…in the case of someone that is demon possessed, does he maintain his ability to choose?”

    I make a distinction between our capacity to choose and our range of choices. As human beings made in the image of God we seem to always retain our capacity to make choices. However, our **range or choices** will fluctuate depending upon various factors and circumstances. So with regard to a demon possessed person I would say that as human persons they retain their capacity to have and make choices but their range of choices is going to be affected by the demonic presence.

    “What of the Holy Spirit “possessing” us, if there is exactly such a thing?”

    No such thing, the Holy Spirit never takes over our bodies and possesses us as demonic spirits attempt to do. One of the major differences between God and other spirits is that they seek to control persons while God does not do so. If God designed us to be independent persons, real persons, with our own minds and wills, then he is not going to completely control us. That would be going against his own intended design, and He cannot deny Himself. Some people might like for that to occur, 🙂 just let the Spirit take over their bodies and they sit back and enjoy the ride: kinda like flying an airplane via automatic pilot! 🙂 But alas, that is not how it works. As believers we receive the Spirit and he leads us to do things which we must then choose to do.

    “Is there a choice or a series of choices that cause us to then not be able to make choices any more?”

    Again, we retain the capacity to have and make our own choices, but the range of choices may vary due to circumstances. For example the New Testament speaks of some individuals who continue to engage in sin to such an extent that their conscience is seared. Well, such a person’s range of choices is going to be different from one who joyfully and willfully abides in Christ.

    “From my experience, there are situations where, say for example, an alcoholic can’t seem to make the right choice.”

    That may be referring to a specific choice and again goes to their **range of choices**. But I have known various addicts in whom the substance abuse definitely affected their range of choices and made some specific choices difficult or impossible for them. And yet with respect to other choices they still have and make choices (e.g. they may still choose which liquor store they go to, so they can then buy some more).

    I have never seen a person who had absolutely no choices. Even in the worst conditions you still have some choices. Victor Frankl in his justly famous book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING, speaks of this in his concentration camp experiences how all your possessions can be taken away and you can be treated like a non-human persons and yet even in the worst circumstances you still have choices. I work with inmates who have severe restrictions on their choices and yet you would be amazed at their ingenuity in the way they use their capacity to have and make choices, in developing and increasing their range of choices.

    “There seems to be a difference with the Holy Spirit as we are asked to cooperate, be co-laborers if you will, with Him.

    Very true and again this goes to how the Spirit works in and with us. You need to convince calvinists of this, some of them are so committed to their **monergism** that they make it seem as if our relationship with the Lord only goes one way: he does everything and we do nothing and are just along for the ride. He does not possess us, or dominate us, or take us over, as demonic spirits attempt to do. He does lead us, He does correct us and discipline us. And he most definitely works with us.

    “Thus the imperatives, “walk in the Spirit, be led of the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit” etc.”

    Right and since they are imperatives/commands, we as believers can choose to obey them or choose to disobey them. We really have free will and we have choices as believers. And you can tell a lot about a believer’s spiritual maturity by the consistent choices that they make.

    “Doesn’t it seem that the spirits that take control of us so that we cannot choose are the evil ones?”

    Yes, again they would like to control and dominate and possess a person completely, very different from the way the Holy Spirit/the True God relates to us.

    “This is part of what causes me to be a bit leery of total Calvinism/determinism. Maybe I could be a 3 and half point Calvinist, but not a 5 point one.”

    I do think the calvinists have some erroneous views of how God controls us. He does not control us like a puppet master. It is demons who seek that kind of control over human persons. The Spirit leads and works in and through us, but he does not control us like we are puppets whose every string is pulled by the puppet master.

    Robert

  33. Robert 777,

    I am not arguing from the writings of Augustine. If he correctly interpreted the Bible then let his interpretation stand, if not, then don’t.

    I am looking at the Bible directly. You have said that I have misunderstood this verse by trying to say that I or Augustine have an understanding of faith as a substance. However, this is not speaking into anything that I have said.

    Again, the text of Ephesians 2:8 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith and THAT is not from yourselves; IT is the gift of God, not from works, so that no one may boast.”

    Some have argued that because the article in Greek behind the English word “that” is neuter in Greek and the word “faith” is in the feminine gender in Greek. The argument is that the “that” which is given cannot be the “faith” because they have different genders.

    The fact is that the word “that” in the neuter does not correspond to ANY other neuter word in the previous words. The word “that,” therefore refers to ALL in the preceding phrase, the grace, the salvation, and specifically the faith.

    (I do not understand Greek personally, but I am able to look up these things in various resources, and I do understand how words in other languages have various genders because I speak Spanish which has a similar.)

    The text is clear in any language. Faith is not “from yourselves,” but rather something given by God. I do not need to say that faith is a substance for me to believe the Scripture here. Faith is a trust and an acceptance of God as He revealed Himself to be. Therefore, this acceptance of God its self is not from ourselves, but from God. I would simply ask you to read the text its self, to see what it says, rather than running off to other Scriptures immediately.

    John 1:12 does describe faith as a receiving of God. If you apply this understanding to Ephesians 2:8, then you understand that even the receiving of Jesus that people do is from God.

    Now, you quoted John 1:12 which says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” but it continues in verse 13, “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The text could not be clearer. When a person is born again, that person is not done so “of the will of man.” So again, a person coming to faith, according to the SCRIPTURES, is not from the will of man. This is even more explicitly saying that not only faith, but also rebirth is not only from the people, but it is also not from their will. The text does tell us whose will it was, however. It says it is from God.

    I have done nothing but try as best as I can to let the Scriptures speak for themselves, I have not quoted any Christian writers outside of the Scriptures. If you think I have not let the Bible speak for its self, then show me where I have made a mistake, because I do not think I have all things figured out. I do however, think I understand the Scriptures on this subject. So please interact with the Scripture, not accusing me of following some teaching of Augustine to the exclusion of the Scripture without showing thus.

  34. Big Tex says, “You need to convince calvinists of this, some of them are so committed to their **monergism** that they make it seem as if our relationship with the Lord only goes one way: he does everything and we do nothing and are just along for the ride.”

    Unfortunately, there may be those who hold to such views. However, I am a 5 point Calvinist, in the sense that I believe those five points to be derived from the Scripture, but I have not personally meat anyone in my church of a decent size that would say that we are just sort of “along for the ride.”

    Monergism simply means that God causes all that is necessary for salvation, and does not merely try to get people saved, like you or I would. According to the Bible, God never comes to an unbeliever to say, “YOU ARE GOING TO BELIEVE!” God does not, “Force people to believe Him,” as some say that Calvinist believe that he does.

    Rather, the Calvinist’ understanding of Scripture is that God come to the unbeliever as a person who hates Him because of His blindness and deadness to God, and God gloriously gives that person life to experience the kingdom, and eyes to see the “light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). This newly born child of God, believes as naturally as a newly born baby breaths. That is the nature God gives to the Child of God, that those “who are by nature, children of wrath” of Ephesians 2 do not have.

    Hope that clears up any misunderstandings. 🙂

  35. Robert 777,

    I want to be more clear as to the Statements of the website you posted.

    Basically, it said as it thought it would that the “that,” which God gives cannot be the “faith” because the “that” is neuter and the “faith” is feminine. However, the website does say that it is referring to the participle “have been saved.” This is very interesting because the phrase “have been saved” is a MASCULINE participle, whereas the word “faith” is FEMININE. So, I guess that the word “that” cannot be referring to the salvation either, hu? Amazing!

    Again, the fact is that the word “that” does not correspond to ANY previous word. So what is Paul referring to? Nothing? Of course not. Paul must be referring to ALL that is in the previous statement: He is referring to the grace, the salvation, AND the faith. It is ALL from God, including the “faith.” There is no getting around the plain teaching of Scripture. ALL that is necessary for salvation is given by God, even the faith that receives the salvation.

    Again, I would ask anyone to correct me in this matter, because I am open to correction. However, all I ask is that the Scripture be first understood, and second rejoiced in, because I see this as a incredibly empowering truth. It means that I can speak God’s truth in love by the power of God to Muslims, as I have been doing in my college, knowing that God is free to save whom He will. If I thought it was up to the sin desiring will of man, I might want to give up, but this text says that it is not. This is amazing, and I love it because it is in the Bible.

  36. To Dr. Brown and Robert 777,

    There is actually direct Scriptural reason to ask as “the other Robert” (lol) did, “If your ‘Will’ is what determines things…What determines your will?”

    When Paul the Apostle gives as command in Phil 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” Paul gives a reason for it. He says in the following verse, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    So, perhaps there is a different interpretation to this verse, but I understand it to plainly teach that underneath our willing and working is God’s working in us so that we will and work for His good pleasure.

    Dr. Brown, you would probably understand this to be some sort of general, kind of nudging us along, but do you not think that there is a necessity for God to “work” in us for us both to will and to work for His good pleasure?

    Thank you.

  37. Eric,

    I should say, if I have not said so already that I enjoy fellowship with you on here as well!

    Thank You.

  38. Eric,

    I have said much of what I was going to say to you already in my posts to Greg, so please consider them.

    I do not understand what you mean when you said, “Or, as I’ve heard this before, “become one of His sheep then by repenting and putting your faith in Jesus”.”

    Now, Jesus did say to those to whom he was speaking in John 8:47, “Whoever is of God hears the words from God, the reason you do not hear the is that you are not of God.” And he says, “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep” in John 10:26. So, why is is that not being a sheep causes you to not be able to believe? Why do you have to be “from God to even hear God”?

    As to John 6, no this passage does not say that all of humanity is drawn. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws HIM; and I will raise HIM up on the last day.” The one who is drawn is raised. So if all of humanity is drawn *in this way*, then all of humanity would be raised on the last day, that is, given eternal life.

    What many do is jump over to John 12:32, saying that all are drawn. But, if the drawing of John 12:32 is synonymous with the drawing of John 6:44, then I again point out that all would be saved. So one should interpret John 6 first within its context.

    I should mention that Jesus actually gives a whoever invitation here, emphasizing that the doctrine of the free will of God does not contradict God’s command for every person to believe. He says in John 6:58, “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. *Whoever* feeds on this bread will live forever.” But Jesus did not take the truth that He offers salvation to everyone to deny that NO ONE can respond to this free offer of the Gospel unless God grants it. And those who He draws and grants to come to Him all do so, because He raises them up on the last day, giving them eternal life. He responds in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    Again I only ask everyone to believe both truths because they are both in the Scripture and they are not contradictory.

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