The Justification Transposition


Breaking Bad - Justification TranspositionIn the last post I shared some of my thoughts on the sequence of events in salvation. I compared these events to a chemical reaction in which a person that is condemned to death is transformed into a person that is reconciled and made alive.

Dead & Condemned → Alive & Reconciled

This process is started when grace is applied, giving us the Grace Reaction.

The last post also presented the chain reaction as it is understood in Reformed theology. That reaction looks like this:

Dead → Grace → Regeneration → Faith → Justification → Reconciliation

Examining the equation above we were left with the question: is it possible for someone to be born again (regenerated) prior to having their sins forgiven (justification)?

While the various aspects of salvation occur faster than the combustion of methane/oxygen (see video in last post), it can be helpful to slow things down and evaluate the steps based on their logical order.

Faith and Justification

There is little debate that faith logically precedes justification.  In Romans 4:1-5, Paul explains that Abraham was justified (credited as righteous) based on having faith. And in Romans 5:1 we read:

since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God (NET)

These passages give us some insight into the logical ordering of events. It affirms that justification (being declared righteous) is the result of faith. Furthermore, it tells us that the peace we have with God occurs after one has been justified. Digging into the Greek, the possession of peace (present indicative) is the main verb in the sentence. The act of being justified is an aorist participle. The participle (justification) can be translated as temporally occurring prior to the main verb (having peace) or the participle can be considered the cause of the main verb (see Wallace page 624,631).

The result is the following (partial) sequence of events:

Faith → Justification → Reconciliation (Peace)

This sequence seems to be supported by Colossians (1:20-22) which reminds us that peace and reconciliation is through the blood of Christ and His death on the cross. And it is on the cross that our debt was paid so that we might be justified (2:13).

Justification and Regeneration

That still leaves open the logical ordering of justification in relation to regeneration. The passage in Colossians (2:13-14) gives us some insight.

 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Here the Greek is less clear. The main verb (made alive) and the participle (having forgiven) are both aorist. That means that temporally forgiveness (justification) occurs either prior to being made alive (regeneration) or these steps occur at the same time.

However, if regeneration and justification occur at the same time, and faith precedes justification then we still have faith logically occurring before regeneration.

Faith → Justification → Regeneration

Reading the text in Colossians presents a clear picture. It says that we are dead in our trespasses. The emphasis is placed on being made alive after our trespasses are removed. Our sins legally demand that we be condemned and considered dead. Once these legal demands are dealt with on the cross the path is made clear for God to make us alive.

Justification Transposition

We are dead in our transgressions (Eph 2:1; Col 2:13). The reason we are condemned is because we are guilty of having sinned against God. In different analogies sin is considered a debt that we owe (Col 2:13) or something we do that earns death (Rom 6:23). Jesus regularly taught that sin was comparable to a debt that cannot be paid back (Luke 7:40-50; Matthew 18:23-35).

The most sensible conclusion is that death, which is the penalty of sin, would be removed (by the giving of life) only after the issue (sin) causing the problem was dealt with.

Furthermore, if those who are born again (regenerated) are able to inherit the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5) and God can justly regenerate someone who is still weighed down by the debt of sin then why did He need to send Jesus to cancel out the debt?

The only way to balance the Reformed equation is to perform the Justification Transposition. To transpose something is to change the order, and to balance the equation we need place justification prior to regeneration.

The ordo salutis as I have come to understand it can be represented by the following equation:

Dead → Grace → Faith → Justification → Reconciliation → Regeneration

Salvation is by Grace. Without God’s provision we would be left with our sin debt unpaid and would be condemned. The provision of grace does not mean the entire chain reaction will occur. Instead this grace makes the reaction possible by convicting, illuminating, and enabling a person to respond in faith. But there is still the faith variable. A person might accept the gracious gift of salvation, providing a catalyst that propels the reaction forward. Sadly a person might reject salvation. This acts as an inhibitor stopping the Grace Reaction from going forward. A person has a part to play in salvation, but the reaction that transforms the dead to life is all about grace and the work of God. It is God that loves, providing a way to save us. It is God that justifies, reconciles, and regenerates. There is nothing to boast about. May we boast then in the cross and let God have the Glory!

32 thoughts on “The Justification Transposition

  1. It seems to me your entire argument hinges on your presupposition that “being made alive together with him” is necessarily a reference to regeneration. That is not the issue in this passage at all. The entire thrust of the passage concerns union with Christ and the results of that union.

    The issue here is the believer’s judicial standing before God and how that standing has changed due to his union with Christ. We should understand the phrase as a judicial statement, since the rest of the passage seems to concern the forgiveness of our sins based on Christ’s objective accomplishment of the believer’s justification at the cross. Notice the words of the text, “God made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses , BY canceling the record of dept that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14). Death in this context means, among other things, spiritual and judicial separation from God. Conversely, life indicates we are no longer in a state of judicial condemnation. In union with Christ, we are judicially alive before God.

    It is by God’s internal and effectual call that we are brought into this vital union (1 Cor. 1:9). In my view, we should concentrate more on historia salutis and less on ordo salutis. Paul’s emphasis seems to be on the former.

    • Randy,

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this passage.

      I am not sure if you read the first part of this post (The Grace Reaction), where regeneration and justification were defined. But that might help frame the points being made here. In that post we saw that most would define regeneration as being synonymous with being made alive or born again.

      I want to call your attention to the link to Grudem’s definition of regeneration, where he writes:

      When Jesus speaks of being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8), he indicates that it is especially God the Holy Spirit who produces regeneration. But other verses also indicate the involvement of God the Father in regeneration: Paul specifies that it is God who “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5; cf. Col. 2:13).

      It is common for Calvinists to teach that the “made alive” mentioned in Eph 2 (and thus its parallel in Col 2) refers to regeneration (see Hoekema: Saved by Grace, 82, 99). It is often contrasted with the prior state of being dead (ie total depravity).

      So it is not uncommon for the phrase “being made alive together with him” to be taken as a reference to regeneration.

      Of course I totally agree with you that the believer’s judicial standing before God is the main point of the passage. Christ has removed the legal debt so that we might be reconciled to God and joined with Him. This amazing act of love in which the wages of sin (death) is dealt with is what makes it possible for God to offer life to those who were dead.

      • Mike,
        Perhaps my comment was not sufficiently clear to explicate my views on this passage and others in the Pauline Epistles. Let me say first that I love systematic theology and would not want to say anything that would deter anyone from its study. Having said that let me say that I believe all of us have made too many assumptions about the apostles’ concern for it. By that I mean we have at times assumed that the apostles sat down to write with the idea that they were going to address specific questions and issues that have subsequently been raised in the controversies that have arisen throughout the centuries. We must begin with biblical theology and then move on to systematic theology. By that I mean that we must examine the works of individual writers to seek to discover their unique perspectives, styles etc. For example, Paul’s approach and concerns may well have been different from John’s concerns.
        I also believe definition is of extreme importance as we talk about the New Testament’s teachings. We need to know what “justification” means; we need to know what “sanctification” means; we need to know what “regeneration” means. What I think we cannot assume is that those terms will always be used with universal consistency of meaning. Sometimes, the same writer will use terms with different meanings, (think of the word translated “flesh” for example).
        Additionally, though I believe there is a place for a consideration of the order of the application of redemption [what God is doing for or in us], I don’t believe such a consideration was always [or even usually] in Paul’s mind when he wrote. More often, his concern was the history of redemption [what God has accomplished in Christ]. The application of that accomplishment is seen in the believer’s union with Christ. I can think of no more far-reaching and unifying theme in the Pauline Epistles than the theme of “in Christ,” and “with Christ.”
        My point was that I doubt if Paul was at all concerned with Ordo Salutis when he wrote the words in question. He was neither writing about justification [in terms of the existential declaration of righteousness in the life of an individual] nor regeneration [in terms of the implantation of a new, governing principle in the inner man] in this passage. His concern was to explicate the redemption that God has objectively accomplished in Christ. “This he set aside, nailing it to his cross.” He has objectively accomplished our redemption by cancelling our record of debt that was against us. Paul is not talking here about the application of redemption but about redemption itself. The result of that accomplishment was that God raised him from the dead. All of that stands as an objective fact. The cancelling of the debt preceded and was the ground for his resurrection.
        In union with Christ [which is indeed his theme in this passage], and in the divine reckoning, his death for sin and the cancellation of our debt becomes our death for sin and the cancellation of the debt. The putting away of our debt becomes not only the grounds for his resurrection but the grounds for our resurrection with him.
        The order Paul observes here is not the order in which God applies redemption to us but the order in which he had accomplished redemption in Christ.
        What we often describe as “regeneration” has preceded all of this in the passage. In both the figures he uses to speak about this work of God, circumcision and baptism, a person is acted on, not active. It is as a result of God calling us into the fellowship [union-that speaks of something essential shared in common] of his Son) (1 Cor. 1:9) that we have come to enjoy all the blessings of the New Covenant.

    • Randy,

      Thanks for taking the time to explain your view more fully. However, I am not sure that this addresses the questions raised in this post.

      … we have at times assumed that the apostles sat down to write with the idea that they were going to address specific questions and issues that have subsequently been raised in the controversies that have arisen throughout the centuries.

      I agree that many of the questions we ask of the Scriptures may not have been what the apostles were focusing on when writing. It does not mean that we might not attempt to glean information they used to make their points in order to flush out our theology. This is an iterative process of working on how to best understand the text within the context of the book it is contained in, the time period and problems it is addressing, and the overarching themes in the rest of the Scriptures.

      I also believe definition is of extreme importance as we talk about the New Testament’s teachings. … we cannot assume is that those terms will always be used with universal consistency of meaning.

      I agree. I defined two of these terms in the previous post. I purposely looked to theologians across multiple views in order to present fair definitions both in general and for the passages under consideration.

      My point was that I doubt if Paul was at all concerned with Ordo Salutis when he wrote the words in question.

      That may be true. However, that still does not mean we can’t gather insight on this question from what he wrote.

      What we often describe as “regeneration” has preceded all of this in the passage.

      In order not to assume anything, what is the “this” you refer to that you say regeneration precedes? And on what basis should we assume that regeneration precedes “this”? Especially if an Ordo Salutis is not Paul’s concern.

      Even if we did not use the Colossians passage to help us work out our Ordo Salutis (though I think that it can be used), the pressing questions regarding the Reformed Ordo Salutis are still unanswered.

      1) on what basis does God cause someone to be born again (regenerated) prior to having their sins forgiven (justification)?

      2) if those who are born again (regenerated) are able to inherit the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5) and God can justly regenerate someone who is still weighed down by the debt of sin then why did He need to send Jesus to cancel out the debt?

      • In an effort not to waste any more of our time on this issue, let me make just a couple of brief comments.

        I agree that we may gather insight from what Paul wrote, even though it was not his specific intention to address the issues we are concerned about.

        The ‘this” I am referring to is the passage you are commenting on. The point I am making is that it is this work of the Spirit that enables sinners to respond in faith to
        God’s call that unites us to Christ.

        There does not need to be a basis on which God regenerates sinners.

        I have to confess that I don’t understand the last question you have asked. First, regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, adoption, sealing etc, all occur simultaneously. It isn’t as if there are regenerate people who are still weighed down with a burden of sin. As soon as believers are united with Christ, his righteousness and his death are credited to our account.

        The basis of justification is the finished work of Christ. The basis of regeneration is the free, sovereign and distinguishing grace of God.

      • Randy,

        I have not considered this a waste of time. Hope you did not either. I appreciate your comments. I do believe iron sharpens iron.

        When I asked for clarifying “this”, it was because I was not sure if you were referring to salvation as a whole, or a part such as union in Christ, justification etc. Thanks for clarifying.

        I think there is much we agree on. I agree with your point that it is the work of the Spirit that enables sinners to respond in faith. And that this response is what results in union with Christ. However, I would disagree that the work of the Spirit is irresistible such that it necessitates a response of faith in a person when it operates.

        While most theologians don’t like to think of the Ordo Salutis as temporal most will discuss it as occurring in a logical order. Calvinists emphasize the idea that regeneration precedes faith. You even brought this out in your comments. This is a key part of Reformed soteriology. However, when pressed, the emphasis changes to this all being simultaneous.

        In this post (and its predecessor), I tried to address this as being a look at the logical order, which has a noted cause/effect relationship that most if not all theologians acknowledge.

        That is why logically it can be shown that there is a point where there are regenerate people who are still legally guilty of sin. Because regeneration precedes faith which itself precedes justification.

        Since regeneration is considered synonymous with being born again, and being born again is required to see/enter the kingdom then it seems like a fair question to ask why God is Just in regenerating those He has not yet justified since our being kept out of the kingdom was based on our sin problem.

        If Paul is not concerned with Ordo Salutis, then what passages would be used to demonstrate that regeneration must precede faith in your opinion? I ask because Eph 1 and 2 are the common passages I have seen used.

        Thanks for taking part in this discussion. I welcome your participation here and on other posts.

      • Please forgive me for giving the impression that I thought any such discussion is a waste of time. What I intended is that once we have tried to make our positions clear on a given passage, it is at times like beating a dead horse to continue. At that point, unless there are other issues to be discussed in a given passage, it is probably good to move on to another issue.

        Let me say first as we continue that my views of “regeneration” may be a bit different from those you have encountered in your interactions with other “Reformed.” The fact is, I don’t even consider myself Reformed in the strictest sense of the word, and I am sure many of the Reformed would be happy to hear that confession.

        The NT speaks very little about “regeneration” using that term. The one time Jesus used the term, he referred not to an act of God in an individual sinner, but to the time of fulfillment when God would make all things new. In my view, that time of fulfillment began with the resurrection of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit. By that I don’t mean that everything has come to fulfillment, but that the fulfillment has been accomplished. The rest is a matter of application. For example, the entire cosmos is to be set free from the bondage of corruption. Jesus accomplished this at the cross, but that accomplishment will not be applied until he returns in glory. It is my view that when Paul uses the term in Titus 3, he may be referring, not to the act itself, but to the era of fulfillment to which that act belongs, i.e., it is the washing and renewing that, in fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of Ezek. 36:25-27, belongs to the New Covenant era. The blessings God gave to Israel foreshadowed the blessings that now belong to the NC people of God. We fulfill the types and shadows of the OC. I believe it was this promise to which Jesus was referring when he told Nicodemus he needed to be born again of water “I will sprinkle clean water upon you. . . .” and of Spirit, ‘I will put a new disposition and my Spirit within you.” Obedience to God is the result of his actions in this promise, not the cause of them. As I understand the gospel, it is not merely an invitation but a command to believe and repent (see 2Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17; Acts 17:30). According to Jesus, Nicodemus and all those like him [note the plural] needed the acts of God described in this promise not only to enter but to even catch a glimpse of the kingdom. They all, along with the rest of us, needed God to exchange their stony hearts for hearts of flesh in order to obey God’s commandments, including the commands of the gospel.

        John seems to say more about being born again than any other NT writer. I am merely saying that from a memory glance. I have not actually gone to a concordance to count the references. When he does so, especially in his first Epistle, he represents a number of results that follow being born of God. In every case, he uses the identical grammatical construction. He talks about what is occurring in the present, then states why it is occurring. For example, in 1 Jn 4:7 he states that whoever is loving his brother [present, durative action] has been born of God [perfect, passive, indicative]. The tense of the verb describes an action that has occurred decisively in the past with results continuing into the present. I am sure no one would argue that these believers were born again because they love their brothers in Christ. It is clear that the perfect tense is antecedent to the present tense. He uses this same construction in 5:1 and tells us that “Everyone who is believing (present tense] that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God [perfect, passive, indicative.] Grammatically speaking, it is impossible to construe believing as antecedent to having been born.

        It is my view that if our our discussion is going to be in the context of the Pauline body of truth, it should not be centered so much on the order of regeneration and faith as on the order of calling and faith. In my view, Paul’s many metaphors for God’s work in bringing sinners to conversion [creation, circumcision, resurrection, rescue from bondage, baptism, etc] are more often described as “calling” than “regeneration.”

        My question for you would be why would a person who has received divine enablement to believe the gospel be described [during the hearing of the gospel itself] as “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” and as “ALWAYS” resisting [to fall against or to hurl oneself against] the Holy Spirit? One would have thought Stephen would have at least have described them as neutral in the matter, “fuzzy on the whole good and bad thing” as it were.

        We believe there is a logical and causative order in the application of redemption, not necessarily a chronological order. In the days when a person could still use an incandescent light bulb, I could have illustrated this as follows: When we flip a light switch, it is impossible to tell which occurs first, the flipping of the switch or the illumination of the light bulb. Yet, it is clear to any reasonable person that the illumination of the bulb did not cause the flipping of the switch. There is a logical and causative order in these actions through the two actions occur simultaneously.

        I hope you can tell to which of your objections I am responding since I am finding myself unable to copy and paste them. This comment is about the regenerate being for a time guilty if regeneration precedes faith and thus justification. Technically speaking that is true for a split second, but it is aside from the issue. You have stated that it is “our sin problem that has kept us out of the kingdom and therefore we could not enter the kingdom even if regenerated until we were justified” or something to that effect. First, I would simply refer you to the discussion of the simultaneous nature of all these works of God. Secondly, I would ask you to notice that Jesus did not say being born from above brings one into the kingdom. He said no one will catch a glimpse of or enter the kingdom apart from it. The application of all that Jesus accomplished in his redemptive work [even sanctification] is necessary for enjoying the blessings of this kingdom. Jesus’ point in this discussion was not that a person must be justified to enter the kingdom. Instead, it was that a person does not enter the kingdom in the same way that Nic and all his friends had entered the kingdom of Israel. We are born, not of blood, but of God. A person does not enter the spiritual kingdom of God through physical lineage. Justification or the lack of it is not in view in John 3.

        You have used the term ‘necessitates” in reference to “the response of faith” as though once a person is regenerated he begrudgingly but “necessarily” knuckles under and believes the gospel. This is not our view at all. No sinner receives Christ begrudgingly. In describing the work by which God brings sinners unto union with Christ, one of the metaphors Paul used was creation. He describes conversion as follows, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” When God originally said “Let there be light” the light offered no resistance. The text simply says, “and there was light.” The light shone because God spoke. It was not the shining of the light that initiated God’s command but the light shone willingly when God spoke.

        The question is not whether sinners necessarily believe in response to God’s call. This, in my view, is the question–Who having beheld the glory of God in face of Christ would wish to resist him? He is altogether lovely and the chiefest among ten thousand. Conversion is not “a shotgun wedding.”

  2. Randy,
    No worries. You are forgiven. 🙂

    This comment is about the regenerate being for a time guilty if regeneration precedes faith and thus justification. Technically speaking that is true for a split second, but it is aside from the issue.

    Actually that is the very issue that I chose to address in this post.

    Let me say first as we continue that my views of “regeneration” may be a bit different from those you have encountered in your interactions with other “Reformed.”

    That seems to be true. The post is definately oriented toward the “more common” Reformed view. Of course I find that while people generally hold views that are either Reformed or non-Reformed, most people also don’t hold all of the tenets espoused by the common spokes people for that camp.

    That said this post is generally a response to the Reformed view as it is normally presented. It also examines (or attempts to examine) the logical sequence of actions in a logical way.

    The NT speaks very little about “regeneration” using that term.

    True. It is used very infrequently.

    I agree with you that there is future regeneration when the world is “made right” and we receive our new bodies upon Christ’s return.

    I think most use the term regeneration to refer to God’s restorative work on a person. The general concept of “making all things new” is brought out by other terms like made alive, new creation, circumcised heart, and born again. Whatever term one uses, the concept is of course prevalent in Scripture. That said I suppose one could argue whether these terms are all synonymous or used uniformly.

    How would you define regeneration in terms of a God’s work on a person so that they may respond in faith? What verse (or verses) support that if passages with terms like alive and born again do not?

    My question for you would be why would a person who has received divine enablement to believe the gospel be described [during the hearing of the gospel itself] as “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” and as “ALWAYS” resisting [to fall against or to hurl oneself against] the Holy Spirit? One would have thought Stephen would have at least have described them as neutral in the matter, “fuzzy on the whole good and bad thing” as it were.

    Prevenient Grace (divine enablement) is what allows a person to accept the gospel by faith. It convicts, persuades, and enables but does not do so in a way that is irresistible. When it enables, it overcomes the effects of the fall so that one who was not able to respond is now able. This it does in a way that does not regenerate a person.

    Prevenient grace simply enables one to respond. How exactly is a good question. Maybe that is a mystery for the Arminian side. Not so much in the paradoxical sense but simply because the Scriptures do not tell us how free will works. I imagine this enablement helps us so that we are close to how Adam could have obeyed or disobeyed in the garden or maybe how people can resist temptations. After prevenient grace has worked in us it gives us competing desires that we must wrestle with.

    It is common for Reformers to argue that prevenient grace must make our will neutral so it can be a free choice. This I think is based on a compabilitistic view of free will which always chooses the strongest desire. However, that would not be how I understand free will or describe the process of enablement.

    you have used the term ‘necessitates” in reference to “the response of faith” as though once a person is regenerated he begrudgingly but “necessarily” knuckles under and believes the gospel. This is not our view at all.

    I did not say it was “begrudgingly” done. I meant “necessitate” as in there was no other alternative. But it is my understanding that for the Reformed view regeneration must precede faith because it is the necessary step that causes a person to have a new will by which they can respond in faith. It takes away the desire to rebel and reject God and replaces it with a desire to accept Him. This is irresistible, efficacious, and thus necessary.

    And while Reformers don’t teach, agree with, or like the robot/puppet comparison or the allegation that a person is begrudgingly coaxed into believing it is not an illogical conclusion if one examines the order of events:

    1. man has a depraved will (can’t have faith and resists God)
    2. God regenerates the man giving him a new will (a will he did not want or choose to receive (see #1) since it was given based on unconditional election)
    3. the new will has one desire (accept God) which is the basis for choosing faith

  3. Dead → Grace → Faith → Justification → Reconciliation → Regeneration

    It would seem that regeneration is a phase that includes fath, justification, and reconciliation. I don’t think regeneration is linear with those, but rather overarching.

    • Ovation Eddie,

      Welcome to DHDS.

      Seems to me like your understanding of regeneration is that it refers to a process that includes all the other aspects of salvation. Do I have that right?

      Regeneration, is a word that does not occur often in the Bible. The Greek word behind the two occurrences generally has a renewal as its definition. In the first post, I attempted to define it, using the term the way most theological texts do. That is the term refers to being “born again”. The way I understand it, regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit in making us a “new creation”.

      What passage/passages do you rely on for your broader interpretation?

      • Hi Mike,
        Yes, my understanding of regeneration is a process that includes faith, justification, and reconciliation…and perhaps even Grace if this all happens at once for the believer. In my case, it seemed God was offering his gift of grace to me for a while before I believed, was justified, and reconciled. I don’t think everyone responds to God’s Prevenient Grace in exactly the same way/timing. As for ALL other aspects of salvation, no, I don’t believe personal regeneration includes sanctification and glorification. Those follow regeneration (see my video on the three aspects of salvation for more detail: (http://youtu.be/oQg-s2_Nsls)

        As you linked, paliggenesía (“renewal, rebirth”) is used twice in the NT referring to:

        a) the re-birth of physical creation at Christ’s return (Advent), which inaugurates His millennial kingdom (Mt 19:28; cf. Ro 8:18-25); what I understand is being described here is Glorification, which is different than personal regeneration, which deals with the heart, not the whole body and creation…yet.

        b) the re-birth all believers experience at conversion (Tit 3:5). Now THAT is what I’m talking about regarding personal regeneration, describing faith, justification and reconciliation.

        4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared (GRACE), 5 he saved us (JUSTIFIED), not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth (JUSTIFICATION) and renewal (SANCTIFICATION) by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God (FAITH/BELIEF that led to that JUSTIFICATION) may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

        Hope that answers your question,

        Ed

      • Hi Mike, i see regeneration as the spiritual change that occurs at justification, when we are born again. I see justification as the point, and sanctification as a vector. Thus, sanctification is a process.

  4. Man when it comes to salvation does not need physical light he has that. Man is personal and God deals with man person to person. He does not implant understanding and conviction in a person like one would program a computer. He uses the means of influence and response. All that God does enlightens men and leads to repentance and faith for all who embrace instead of rejecting that enlightening. The wicked are rejecting the influence of God as surely as the saved are receiving it. Wicked people increase their guilt when they understand the gospel and reject it.

  5. John,

    I assume you are referring to the idea of prevenient grace (PG). Is that correct?

    PG describes how God works in a person to overcome the damage done by the fall (aka total depravity) and enables that person to respond to the Gospel. That term is rather broad and I think many see this working in different ways.

    Of course many see the affects of the Fall differently as well. How do you see the affects of the Fall? Does man need grace to respond to the gospel?

    He does not implant understanding and conviction in a person like one would program a computer. He uses the means of influence and response.

    If I understand the main point of your comment, PG works based on man’s response to it. Man is given a little light and as he responds in a positive fashion he receives more light. I don’t think I would disagree. Nature shows us their is a God (Rom 1), the HS convicts (John 16:9), and we hear truth. I think that as we respond favorably we receive more grace and as we reject what we are given we are hardened (Mark 4:24-25; Matt 13:10-17). That said, I think that the PG (or light) is both what God is doing externally around us and internally in us.

    • Mike,

      If I understand your point correctly, you are saying it is really the sinner who removes the effects of the fall by his positive response to the gospel. This cannot be attributed to God since, in your view, he has given equal revelation to all and one would presume equally convicts sinner

  6. My computer had a hiccup and I am continuing my comment here:

    one would presume the Holy Spirit equally convicts every sinner.

    I have a number of problems with this understanding.

    1. It is the consistent testimony of Scripture that sinners by nature consistently love the darkness rather than the light. By nature, there is no positive response to the light. In Romans 1:18, Paul introduces the idea that sinners suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. Then, he follows this statement with a number of examples of this suppresson. Sinners consistently suppress the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in the creation, sinners reject the testimony of conscience [we don’t always do what we know is right or refrain from what we know is wrong], the Jewish people has a clearly defined revelation of God’s will in the Mosaic code, yet they suppressed that knowledge and blasphemed God’s name among the Gentiles. Paul sums up his indictment by stating that there is none who seeks out God. He has mentioned the light of creation, conscience, commandments, and we could add Christ’s gospel, and conviction by the Holy Spirit, yet the consistent testimony of Scripture is that there is no positive response to these revelations God has given. Sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit. The gospel is always foolishness to the natural man. We do not disagree that God has given some light to all his creation, but sinners need more than light; they need sight.

    2. My biggest problem is the lack of biblical support for such a view. There is simply no evidence that God has promised to give greater light to those who reacted positively to the light they had been given.

    3. Since God must be fair [I am not sure where that is taught in the Bible], one would think he would, at least initially, give equal revelation to every sinner. Yet, it is abundantly clear from many passages of Scripture that he hasn’t done so. For examples: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day” (Matt. 11:23) (Those of Capernaum received greater revelation that those in Sodom). “And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matt. 13:11). Some are born blind and cannot behold the glory of God revealed in the night sky. Others can clearly behold this respendent revelation. He directed Paul and his companions away from Asia and sent the gospel to Greece instead (Acts 16: 6-10). Some never hear the gospel while others are flooded with it, yet there is no evidence that those who hear it are any less hardened to it than those who remain in pagan darkness.

    4. I am not sure how you understand the term “conviction,” but it seems to me most people associate it with the idea of making sinners feel guilty for their sins and showing them they need Christ as their Savior. The problem is that in the lone reference (John 16:8) in which the Holy Spirit is said to “convict.” it does not have that meaning. Instead, it means to show sinners to be guilty by presenting the evidence against them and has nothing to do with their feelings. They may or may not feel guilty depending on the other works of God’s grace that follow. Jesus used the same word in reference to his enemies’ accusations against him.(John 8:46). Clearly, he did not mean which of you can make me feel guilty for sins? Instead, he meant which of you can bring evidence against me to show that I am guilty of sin? There is no suggestion in this text that “conviction” of the Holy Spirit is intended to make sinners feel guilty for their sins or that it is the work by which God brings sinners to faith in Christ. The Spirit’s work is analogous to that of a prosecuting attorney in a court of law. The attorney has no responsibility to make the accused feel guilty for his crime or to bring him to repentance for it. His task is to present proof if his guilt. The accused may or may not feel remorse for his crime, but that is aside from the issue. There is not a single word in the text that gives the impression that the Spirit’s work is to convince sinners they need a Savior. He presentes evidence that people are guilty of Christ rejection “Of sin because they do not believe on me.” He presents evidence of Jesus’ righteousness “because I go to my Father and you see me no more” and he presents evidence that judgment is coming, “because the prince of this world is judged.” Since sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit, this work has no saving effect on them. They may tremble at the thought of judgment, but they have no dispostion to leave their sins in order to avoid being condemned in it. Where is the biblical text that tells us any sinners has ever been brought to faith in Christ by this work of the Spirit? I don’t know of a single one.

    Perhaps I misunderstood you statement but it seemed to me when you referred to what God is doing “internally in us” it was to this work of the Spirit you were referring. It appears to me the Spirit’s work of “conviction” is not an internal work at all.

    Where are the texts that tell us God removes the sinner’s natural hostility toward him, inclines him to seek Christ and righteousness but then leaves him in his sins?

  7. There is another issue I have been wondering about in reference to your views. If God has granted to every sinner the ability to obey the command of the gospel, would it not logically follow that they also have the ability to obey other commandments of God as well? The reason sinners don’t believe the gospel is the same reason they are not subject to his law. “The mind of the flesh is hostile toward God” (see Rom 8:7). If prevenient grace has removed that hostility and enabled sinners to obey the gospel, has it not also enabled them, by removing their enmity toward God, enabled them to obey his other commandments as well? My question for you is why they need regeneration at all. Granted, regeneration cleanses us from our past sins, but justification declares us righteous and cancels our guilt for all of those sins. My understanding is that God’s work of regeneration in all its metaphorical expressions is intended to cause us to be obedient to God. If I can obey any command from God [belief and repentance] without it, why can I not obey every command of God without it?

  8. Randy,

    Don’t have time to respond to all your points right now.

    It is the consistent testimony of Scripture that sinners by nature consistently love the darkness rather than the light. By nature, there is no positive response to the light

    That seems like a reasonable definition what is commonly called total depravity.
    It is prevenient grace (PG) that enables a sinner to have a positive response to the light.

    it is really the sinner who removes the effects of the fall by his positive response to the gospel

    I will assume that by the term “effects of the fall”, you mean the inability for man (as above), unaided by grace, to respond to the gospel rather than physical and spiritual death.

    However regardless of what you mean the answer to your question is no. People do not remove the effects of the fall. God provides grace that counteracts the effects of the fall so that a person can cooperate with the grace God gives. Of course man is free to refuse to cooperate with that grace.

    God does all the work to save mankind. By the death of Christ we are qualified, delivered, forgiven, reconciled, and presented as blameless all by the death of Christ (Colossians 1:11-22). It is Christ that provides the means by which we are to be saved. God also provides the grace that enables a sinner to have a positive response.

    However, the salvation promised by God is conditional. It is offered to all who come by faith. A person must call on the name of Jesus in order to be saved. When that happens, God gives us the salvation He promised, by placing us into the body of Christ. That is the basis of synergism.

    Now, as I already mentioned, how the grace that precedes salvation works is a mystery. God does not tell us how it works (ie) counteracts the effects of the fall. Only that He will draw people to Himself. Whether the drawing of PG is an instantaneous effect or something that God does in a person over time is something that is debated.

    one would presume the Holy Spirit equally convicts every sinner.

    Not sure why one would presume that.

    Since God must be fair …

    Not sure why one would presume that. In addition to your examples the parable of the talents shows that each is given a different amount of talents but is held responsible for how he uses what he was given.

    Sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit.

    Even in the Reformed monergistic understanding of salvation, people are still sinners both before and after they are given efficacious grace (ie) regenerated. How does this grace work if the sinner always resists the Spirit? Why doesn’t the sinner resist this grace and stay in the darkness that they prefer?

    • Mike,

      I don’t want to impute to you a position you don’t hold. I presume that those who hold your position believe God must be fair to everyone because they have so often told me God would not be fair if he didn’t love everyone equally and in the same way. I believe he would be fair if he damned the entire race.

      Re: “Sinners always resist the HS”, I should have said, “Sinners in a state of sinful nature always resist the Holy Spirit.”

      How can you contend that God does all the work to save mankind if he does not remove their sinful hostility against him? If sinners continue in a state of hostility against God, who overcomes that hostility? Do you believe sinners just suddnly stop being hostile toward God by themselves? Do you believe God gives more prevenient grace to some than to others? If he does, and thus enables them to embrace Christ, how would that differ for the Reformed doctrine of effectual calling? Additionally, if he gives more grace to some, what is it that has determined to whom he will give more grace? Does it seem fair to you that this God who would not be fair if he chose some for salvation and passed over others would give some enough grace to respond properly to the gospel and not give others the same grace? And, if he doesn’t give to everyone sufficient grace to bring them to faith and repentance, has he really done everything he can to save them?

      I am still waiting for you to offer clear passages of Scripture that support the idea that God has given prevenient grace to everyone on the planet that effectively removes the sinners abhorrence of the gospel and leaves him in a position in which he can go either way? Everything I read in the Scriptures leads me to believe that even after God has flooded sinners with revelation, reproof, his goodness and longsuffering etc., they still, in a state of sinful nature, continue in their recalcitrant rebellion against him. Where do we read of sinners in a state of nature in whom this rebellion has been removed but who ultimately reject the gospel offer and perish? The mystery is not how “prevenient [but ineffectual] grace” works but how anyone could believe it exists since the Bible is completely silent about it? And if God has already done everything he can to save everyone, must it not be something in the sinner that makes the difference? Are some more sinful at heart than others? Can there be degrees of total depravity? If PG removes the effects of total depravity for all, why do the Scriptures describe unbelievers as hostile toward God, hardened, past feeling, rebellious etc.?

      • Randy,
        I don’t want to impute to you a position you don’t hold. I presume that those who hold your position believe God must be fair to everyone …

        I appreciate that. I don’t hold to an Arminian view b/c I think that God must be fair. I hold to it (in part) b/c it emphasizes a often repeated Scriptural theme that God wants all to be saved and not to perish. However, in the Reformed view these passages are set aside as God unconditionally choose some of His creation to be saved and left the rest to perish. Thus part of His overriding design and purpose for creation is to send people – people who have no ability to respond to the gospel because He withholds what is needed – to eternal condemnation.

        How can you contend that God does all the work to save mankind if he does not remove their sinful hostility against him? If sinners continue in a state of hostility against God, who overcomes that hostility? Do you believe sinners just suddnly stop being hostile toward God by themselves?

        Can you re-read my comment. I directly answer all of these questions.

        Do you believe God gives more prevenient grace to some than to others?… Additionally, if he gives more grace to some, what is it that has determined to whom he will give more grace?

        I don’t speak for all Arminians, but I think God gives grace to overcome our fallen nature so that we can freely choose how we respond to the truth we have. Based on our response we may get more or less grace and exposure to truth.

        By way of example I recommend reading this post on the Ethiopian eunuch. In a nutshell the eunuch responded to the grace he was given and wanted to know God and worship Him based on what He knew. I infer this because presumably some grace is necessary to counteract the effects of the fall so that a person would desire to worship God. Further, it seems clear from the account that when Philip first meets him that he is not saved yet. After Philip helps the man interpret Isaiah and explains who the Messiah is the eunuch asks to be baptized. At this point I would conclude that he was given the (resistible) grace that would be necessary to respond in faith. I infer this from passages like Acts 16 where God opened up Lydia’s heart and because it is necessary to counter the effects of the fall. Without this grace the eunuch would not have been able to respond in faith.

        The question for the Reformed view, is how was the eunuch, who was presumably not regenerated yet, desire to know and worship God before he met Philip?

        If he does, and thus enables them to embrace Christ, how would that differ for the Reformed doctrine of effectual calling?

        The grace offered is resistible.

        I understand Scripture to repeatedly tell us that God’s will and purpose is that all should come to salvation. That no one should perish. So that people can demonstrate true love for Him, God acts in such a way that He provides all that is necessary for people to be saved yet in such a way that their libertarian free will is enabled and maintained.

        And if God has already done everything he can to save everyone, must it not be something in the sinner that makes the difference?

        Yes. It is a libertarian free will. Each person makes the difference. They accept salvation by faith or reject it.

        Now, in monergism, Calvinists like to argue that salvation is all of God. Man has nothing to do with it. Then in the next breath turn around and say that a person participates.

        I assume that the Monergist would say that the person participates in salvation when they respond to the grace that is given by God, which enables them to place their faith in Christ. But if that is the case how would that differ from synergism? In both cases a person receives prior grace enabling a response and then responds. Salvation it would seem even for the Calvinist is dependent on the person’s choice.

        Now, here the Monergist objects. The grace God gives is efficacious so that the person will always respond with faith. He can’t reject salvation like he can in the synergist view. After regeneration the person is unable to reject God. Therefore salvation does not depend on the person’s choice.

        Here things get a little paradoxical. How is it then that the person participates in salvation?

  9. Mike I have interspersed my comments with yours and preceded each with our names.

    Randy,
    I don’t want to impute to you a position you don’t hold. I presume that those who hold your position believe God must be fair to everyone …

    Mike
    I appreciate that. I don’t hold to an Arminian view b/c I think that God must be fair. I hold to it (in part) b/c it emphasizes a often repeated Scriptural theme that God wants all to be saved and not to perish. However, in the Reformed view these passages are set aside as God unconditionally choose some of His creation to be saved and left the rest to perish. Thus part of His overriding design and purpose for creation is to send people – people who have no ability to respond to the gospel because He withholds what is needed – to eternal condemnation.

    Randy

    Then it is not your position that God must be fair to everyone? Do you believe God gives greater grace to some than to others? If he does, does he do this according to a prior divine plan, or does he do it haphazardly?

    You have inaccurately represented the Reformed position in stating that certain passages regarding God’s published desire for the salvation of sinners are “set aside.” That is simply not true. We believe both the set of passages that speak of God’s holy desire to see all his creatures joyfully glorifying him and that set of passages that speak of his decree that guarantees that his free grace and mercy will be manifested in some of his creatures whom he has prepared beforehand for glory.

    Additionally, sinners do not perish because God has determined to leave them without grace. They perish because they are rebels against the holy sovereign of the universe. If no one received grace, their situation would not be changed at all. God will not be at fault if anyone is in hell. Sinners perish through their own fault alone. Please understand that we don’t believe sinners are unable to come to Christ because they are suffering from some physical, psychological or emotional incapacity that has been thrust on them contrary to their choice. Unregenerate sinners cannot come because they do not want to come. If only they wanted to come, they could and would come. We never imagine that there are sinners who truly want to glorify God by obedience to his revealed will but he just won’t let them do so.

    According to your scheme, God has determined not to give anyone sufficient grace to actually bring them to faith. Does that mean God is responsible if they perish? Is the reason for their eternal damnation that God didn’t give them sufficient grace to believe?

    Randy to Mike in a previous post:

    How can you contend that God does all the work to save mankind if he does not remove their sinful hostility against him? If sinners continue in a state of hostility against God, who overcomes that hostility? Do you believe sinners just suddenly stop being hostile toward God by themselves?

    Mike:
    Can you re-read my comment. I directly answer all of these questions.

    Randy:

    I have read your comments and in my view they leaves all these questions unanswered in reality. I assume it is in the following paragraphs you think you answered my questions:

    “However regardless of what you mean the answer to your question is no. People do not remove the effects of the fall. God provides grace that counteracts the effects of the fall so that a person can cooperate with the grace God gives. Of course man is free to refuse to cooperate with that grace.

    God does all the work to save mankind. By the death of Christ we are qualified, delivered, forgiven, reconciled, and presented as blameless all by the death of Christ (Colossians 1:11-22). It is Christ that provides the means by which we are to be saved. God also provides the grace that enables a sinner to have a positive response.”

    Randy continued:

    If, in your view, people don’t remove the effects of the fall, when does God give the grace that counteracts the effects of the fall. Again, the Scriptures consistently represent sinners as being in a state of sinful nature. If God has given all people this ability and given it equally to all [not sure yet if you believe that] if some come to faith in Christ, who was it that went the extra mile? Do you believe that in everything you mentioned God has done everything he intends to do to bring sinners to himself? If he has, then it must not be he who removes the effects of the fall since according to the Scriptures, those effects remain. Where do the Scriptures ever suggest that any of the effects of the fall have been removed prior to conversion? I hate to keep asking that question but in the final analysis that is the only thing that really matters.

    Do you believe God gives more prevenient grace to some than to others?… Additionally, if he gives more grace to some, what is it that has determined to whom he will give more grace?

    Mike

    I don’t speak for all Arminians, but I think God gives grace to overcome our fallen nature so that we can freely choose how we respond to the truth we have. Based on our response we may get more or less grace and exposure to truth.
    That is a nice sentiment but I can’t think of a single shred of Scripture that suggests that such an idea is true.

    Mike

    By way of example I recommend reading this post on the Ethiopian eunuch. In a nutshell the eunuch responded to the grace he was given and wanted to know God and worship Him based on what He knew. I infer this because presumably some grace is necessary to counteract the effects of the fall so that a person would desire to worship God. Further, it seems clear from the account that when Philip first meets him that he is not saved yet. After Philip helps the man interpret Isaiah and explains who the Messiah is the eunuch asks to be baptized. At this point I would conclude that he was given the (resistible) grace that would be necessary to respond in faith. I infer this from passages like Acts 16 where God opened up Lydia’s heart and because it is necessary to counter the effects of the fall. Without this grace the eunuch would not have been able to respond in faith.

    The question for the Reformed view, is how was the eunuch, who was presumably not regenerated yet, desire to know and worship God?

    Randy:

    I think you have misunderstood my view. I do not deny that God grants grace to his elect prior to the decisive act of effectual calling. Though calling and regeneration are decisive acts of God, I believe there are preparatory acts that precede these decisive acts. It is important to keep in mind that much of what we read in Acts is transitional in nature. There is, for example, a several stage outpouring of the Spirit in different locations that form one Spirit baptism. That does not mean we should expect such an outpouring to continue as it did in Acts. There were many who had been converted as Old Covenant believers who needed to hear the full-blown revelation of God’s purposes in Christ. In the case of both the Ethiopian and Lydia we are likely talking about proselyte Jews. Even if that is not the case, your burden in my opinion is to produce examples of those who had received grace to believe who subsequently perished in unbelief. Thus far, you have not provided a single example of a person who received grace to believe who did not believe. The issue is not whether people who have been given grace to believe can resist that grace. The issue is whether anyone who has been given such grace does resist it.

    I am not talking about whether there are people who want to go to heaven when they die. I suspect most everyone desires that if they don’t understand what that means.

    Mike

    The grace offered is resistible.

    Randy

    Again I ask, where is the example of the person who has received this grace who has chosen to resist it?

    Mike
    I understand Scripture to repeatedly tell us that God’s will and purpose is that all should come to salvation. That no one should perish. So that people can demonstrate true love for Him, God acts in such a way that He provides all that is necessary for people to be saved yet in such a way that their libertarian free will is enabled and maintained.

    I would be interested in knowing how you handle all those passages that teach that God accomplishes his will and purpose. If it is his will and purpose that all should come to salvation, why doesn’t he accomplish their salvation? By the way, please cite the verse that teaches that sinners have a libertarian free will.

    Randy

    And if God has already done everything he can to save everyone, must it not be something in the sinner that makes the difference?

    Mike

    Yes. It is a libertarian free will. Each person makes the difference. They accept salvation by faith or reject it.

    Randy

    If what you say is true, does not the person who makes the right decision have a right to boast that he has made a better use of his free will than the person who rejects the gospel? 1 Cor. 4:7.

    Mike

    Now, in monergism, Calvinists like to argue that salvation is all of God. Man has nothing to do with it. Then in the next breath turn around and say that a person participates.

    Randy

    The difference is that though the regenerate respond in faith and repentance, faith and repentance are not meritorious. In that sense the sinner has nothing to do with salvation. It isn’t as if justification before God is based on the sinner’s faith response. Faith is simply the hand that receives God’s riches in Christ.

    Mike

    I assume that the Monergist would say that the person participates in salvation when they respond to the grace that is given by God, which enables them to place their faith in Christ. But if that is the case how would that differ from synergism? In both cases a person receives prior grace enabling a response and then responds. Salvation it would seem even for the Calvinist is dependent on the person’s choice.

    Randy

    Of course, salvation depends on a person’s choice. He who believes will be saved and he who does not believe will be damned. The issue is not whether we choose or God chooses. This issue is why we choose properly and others do not. The testimony of the Scriptures is that we choose him because he first chose us. The difference between the Calvinistic view and synergism is that in synergism the sinner can take part of the glory for his salvation since it is his free will decision that has distinguished him from the unbeliever.

    Mike

    Now, here the Monergist objects. The grace God gives is efficacious so that the person will always respond with faith. He can’t reject salvation like he can in the synergist view. After regeneration the person is unable to reject God. Therefore salvation does not depend on the person’s choice.

    Randy

    I think you have misunderstood the Calvinistic doctrine of “irresistible grace.” By the way, the only reason any Calvinist has ever used that phrase is in response to the Arminian insistence that grace can be resisted. J. I. Packer was clearly right when he wrote, “Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist.” The question is who is the person to whom God has revealed his glory in the face of Christ would wish to resist him? No one forces me to love my wife, but I find her irresistible.

    Here things get a little paradoxical. How is it then that the person participates in salvation?

    As I stated, a person doesn’t participate in his salvation in the sense that he adds anything saving. Faith and repentance are not virtues a sinner brings to Christ. These acts are not saving. God does not justify sinners based on faith but through faith. All the justifying virtue is in Christ.

    You have stated that in prevenient grace God removes the effects of total depravity. It would help me understand your position better if you would tell me what those effects are and when God removes them. Additionally, it would be helpful if you could point me to the theological passage in the New Testament Scriptures in which a biblical writer states and explains this doctrine. Such an explanation should include a statement that talks about those who received it and have had the effects of total depravity removed, deciding to reject the gospel. I do not disagree that God grants prevenient grace to his elect in bringing them to faith, Effectual calling is part of that grace. The issue is whether such grace is granted to the non elect. Please also tell me if you believe God gives this grace to all equally in the initial grant. I understand that you believe he gives more grace as people respond properly to the initial grace. Do you believe all sinners are equally sinful at heart or are some sinners more fallen than others? Are there dead sinners, deader sinners and deadest sinners?

    I am not asking for a specific mention of the term “prevenient grace.” I understand that it is a theological and not a biblical term.

  10. Randy,
    Just an FYI, I don’t need that much context for your replies and it made it difficult to find your new comments. A partial note is fine and then I can search prior comments if I need to establish context.

    I am going to break my response into multiple comments as well. I think will also make it easier to follow.

    You have inaccurately represented the Reformed position in stating that certain passages regarding God’s published desire for the salvation of sinners are “set aside.”

    If God has decreed all that He sovereignly wills (such that it must come to pass), and in these decrees has chosen to save some then it logically follows that He does not will all to be saved.

    How do you reconcile that God desires all to be saved and yet purposely plans to only same some?

    Additionally, sinners do not perish because God has determined to leave them without grace. They perish because they are rebels …

    I have never argued that people that perish didn’t deserve to on account of their sins. However, most Calvinist/Reformers don’t like to admit that the other side of the coin for election (God chooses who He will save) is reprobation (God chooses who He will not save).

    Calvin, himself, said as much:
    —- Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly & childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation. … Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children. (Institutes Book 3 Chap 23)

    According to your scheme, God has determined not to give anyone sufficient grace to actually bring them to faith. Does that mean God is responsible if they perish?

    I like to think of it as God’s plan (not my scheme).

    If by “sufficient” you mean efficacious and irresistible such that the person can only respond in faith then you are correct. God does not give that grace. If, however, what you mean by “sufficient” is what is needed to counteract the effects of the fall to allow them to choose then you are incorrect. God does give this grace so that someone can accept or reject salvation and thus be truly responsible for their choice.

    God purposed before the foundation of the world to save people in Christ by grace through faith. It is His expressed will that He desires all to be saved and none to perish. But this He does without taking away the free will choice of the people.

    • I do not question that God has decreed to pass over sinners whom he decreed to permit to fall into sin. If you wish to call that reprobation, I have no problem with it. What I am arguing is that that act of reprobation is not the cause of their damnation. Their sinful rebellion against God is the cause of their damnation. He needed to do nothing to ensure it would occur.

      Not every Calvinist is a supralapsarian. I personally believe it is an unbiblical and unreasonable position to hold. There is a difference between God decreeing their damnation and being the active and blameworthy cause of their damnation. Given the law of gravity, I need do nothing to cause an object to fall. All I must do is decide that I will not hold it and keep it from falling. That I decide to let it fall, does not cause it to fall.

      I know you like to think it is God’s plan but thus far, you have offered no satisfying evidence. For that reason, I will continue to refer to it as your scheme.

      You continue to state your unsubstianted presuppositions. You imagine that a faith God has enabled cannot be a faith for which a sinner is truly responsible. If you mean he is not to be praised for it, you are right since he didn’t produce it from the soil of carnal nature. If you mean it cannot be a conscious, deliberate, delightful decision, then you are absolutely wrong.

      I will ask you again though I doubt you will answer. Are people responsible for their obedience if God causes it? Ezek. 36:25-27 clearly states that God will cause the obedience of his people. It seems clear as well that this is an obedience for which God holds them responsible. If God can cause obedience and the obedient can be truly responsible for that obedience, why can he not cause faith for which they are truly responsible. You have assumed that it cannot, so in your world that assumption is true. Certainly, you can’t expect me to accept that assertion simply because you seem so confident of it.

      Apart from the final sentence, your last paragraph simply states the obvious. I don’t know of many who would disagree with it. The last sentence states another of your unsupported presuppositions. Simply because you continue to assert it will never give it validity. In my opinion, you have completely failed to make a case for your views. As I have stated often, you need biblical support. There is no need to continue a discussion based on your assertions. Give me biblical texts that plainly state that God grants universal, prevenient grace to sinners that removes the effects of the fall from everyone and leaves them as able to trust Christ as they are to reject him.

      I can provide you texts that show that everyone God calls according to his purpose, he also justifies. Unless you believe that everyone who is invited by the gospel is justified, you cannot posit that the afore mentioned call refers to the universal call of the gospel. That is a clear text that shows the call to be an effectual one. You may choose not to believe it, but it is not a statement of my opinion but a clear biblical statement. On that basis, I believe in effectual calling. All I am asking is for you to provide similar verses to support your assertions.

  11. Randy:
    God does not justify sinners based on faith but through faith. All the justifying virtue is in Christ.

    I agree with you that faith is not meritorious. Justification is based on Christ’s death. However, justification (and the other benefits of Christ’s death) are applied only to those who respond in faith.

    Oddly enough John Piper talks of faith in this article in the same way I would understand it.

    He writes this about merit:
    the term is normally used, “to merit” (or “to deserve”) something good from somebody means to perform some act or manifest some quality which has enough value to another person that it morally obligates him to reward it.

    He gives an example where a guilty prisoner is pardoned. To leave the prison he need only show the letter to the guard. He equates faith with this latter action.

    He then adds: No use of the terms “merit” or “deserve” in our ordinary experience would justify the prisoner’s saying to the warden, “I deserve (or merit) freedom because I brought you this letter.

    Piper concludes:
    Faith in God’s promise obligates him to save the believer not because the quality of faith is meritorious, but because faith is the one human act which calls attention alone to God’s merit, honor and glory and his unswerving commitment to maintain that glory.

    I agree with Piper. Faith is man’s response to the Gospel and it is not meritorious. It calls on God to keep the promise He made.

    • I agree with that as well, but if the sinner’s free will decision is that which distinguishes him from other sinners, he has something to boast about. He produced something they didn’t. It couldn’t be grace that produced it since those who are persisting in their rebellion have received the same “grace” [This so called grace of yours is something I am waiting for you to demonstate from Scripture, but I am not really expecting it since I know it isn’t there]. You stated yourself that it is the sinner’s libertarian free will that distinguished between sinners. The Bible tells us it is God who distinguishes between sinners.

      • God does distinguish between sinners. Those that come to Jesus and those that do not. Faith is an active verb. It is something that a sinner does or does not do.

        Acts 16:30-31
        What must I do to be saved?
        Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved

        You argue that if a person exercises faith then it is meritorious (or boast-worthy) yet Rom 4, Arminians, and even other Calvinists would disagree. That leaves this statement as your opinion.

      • That is not my view. Faith is not a work biblically. It is only a work if it is a free will decision as you believe it is. In your view it is free will decision that distinguishes one sinner from another. In biblical terms it is God’s free grace that distinguishes them.

  12. I saved the best for last.

    I think you have misunderstood my view. I do not deny that God grants grace to his elect prior to the decisive act of effectual calling. Though calling and regeneration are decisive acts of God, I believe there are preparatory acts that precede these decisive acts.

    So you admit that God is able to provide prevenient grace that can overcome the effects of total depravity so that a person can desire to know & worship God without being regenerated. That is what the Arminian position is arguing.

    …your burden in my opinion is to produce examples of those who had received grace to believe who subsequently perished in unbelief.

    Since the NT is primarily written to show the power and growth of the Gospel as it spreads from Jerusalem through the outermost parts of the world it is not surprising that there are not many accounts describing what you are looking for.

    However, the rich young ruler (RYR) in (Mark 10; Matt 18) clearly had similar desires to the eunuch, Lydia, & Cornelius. Thus, he likely received the same grace that the eunuch did in Acts 8 prior to Philip showing up. The RYR wanted to know God and have eternal life. Jesus felt love for him (10:21) and knowing that his reliance was on his wealth challenged him to give that up and to come and follow Him.

    We can infer if this was a sincere and genuine offer that God also provided the necessary grace to overcome the effects of the fall so that the RYR could choose between following Jesus or not. What love would Jesus have for the RYR if he was denied the grace necessary to be able to choose to follow Him?

  13. No, I don’t admit that. There is no prevenient grace that removes the effects of total depravity. There is not a shred of evidence that any of the effects of TD are removed in the unregenerate. You know well that I have asked you why sinners continue to be described as hostile toward God if they have received PG. You have yet to answer the question.

    First, the RYR said not a word about worshipping God or knowing God. He boasted of his supposed obedience to the Law and expressed a desire for eternal life. There are tons of people who desire eternal life on their own terms. Who wouldn’t? Once he heard God’s terms, he decided he wasn’t ready to strike a deal.

    Second, the issue is ambiguous. Perhaps he was one of God’s elect who later believed.

    Third, you know as well as I do that doctrine should be drawn from doctrinal passages in which a specific doctrine is being explicated. To draw doctrine from a narrative passages is speculative at best.

    I am growing a bit impatient waiting for you to answer most of the questions I have posed. You continue to make the same arguments and expect me to accept your presuppositions simply because you have assumed they are true. You have assumed that PG in your sense of the term is reality and based all your conclusions on that unsupported presuppostion. I don’t accept that presuppostion simply because you so confidently affirm it to be valid. Give me a clear biblical text from a theological passage that states your presuppostion clearly. Answer what the effects of TD are that are removed by PG. Tell me why sinners continue be described as having all the effects of TD if those effects have been removed. There are many other crucial questions I have asked you that you have conveniently chosen to ignore. That isn’t playing fair. I have carefully and patiently tried to answer every question you have posed to me. I expect the same courtesy.

    • Randy

      You say I don’t answer your questions. But I would say there is a difference between my not answering (which you accuse me of) and me answering followed by your either rejecting or failing to understand the answer.

      You say I have provided no answers but that is because you rejected the narrative passages I did cite. You can reject them but they were given to answer your questions. Interestingly, the narrative genre accounts for the majority of the Scriptures. And Paul told us these types of accounts (context is OT but can’t see why we should exclude NT ) were given as examples to learn from (1Cor 10:6).

      It is a valid interpretation (even if you choose an alternative interpretation) to see Lydia, Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunoch, and even the Rich Young Ruler as people who desired God in an unregenerate state. When confronted with a choice most came to Christ through faith and the RYR did not.

      In replies to these answers you have agreed that God gave prior grace that enabled the eunuch to desire to worship God prior to regeneration and then later rejected this as a valid example b/c it was a narrative.

      Clearly if the eunuch can desire to worship prior to regeneration b/c God’s grace was given then it seems contradictory for you say it is not tenable for God to provide similar grace (non-regenerative, resistible, & yet able to counter the effects of the fall) so that he can come to faith. Both are logical conclusions from Scriptural evidence.

      In a separate comment you also mention that Lydia, Cornelius, & the Ethiopian eunoch may have been regenerated already and only in need of more information so they could come to faith. Then in yet another comment say there is no gap in time between regeneration & faith. Clearly there would need to be a time gap for the eunuch to be regenerated prior to Philip showing up.

      When (on your blog) I listed non-narrative passages that cumulatively could be used to support prevenient grace. You disagreed with these interpretations. And while you are within your rights to disagree with me, you can’t tell me I did not answer your questions.

      Like all systematic theology, we must rely on Scripture and logic to flush out a coherent view. Just as there is no one passage that says God unconditionally elects people and saves them through an irresistible grace that regenerates them prior to faith, there is no one passage that says God provides resistible grace that enables one to come to faith.

      In a nutshell (again with some revisions):

      1. 1 Tim 2:4 – God wants all people to be saved & not to perish (also Ezek 18:23;32; 33:11)
      2. John 3:16 – God loved the world and sent His Son so that they would not have to perish if they believe
      3. Eph 1:3-14 – God, before the foundation of the world, chose to save people “in Christ”. All who hear and believe will be placed in Christ (#2) and thus will be saved, adopted, blameless, forgiven, & redeemed. This is according to His will that all should be saved & His will that people can receive the salvation He promises by faith (#1).
      4. Jeremiah 18:5-11 – God gives blessings and warnings with the expectation that people will respond.
      5. Rom 2:4-8 – God is patient giving people an opportunity to respond.
      6. John 6:44 – Only those God draws (prevenient resistible grace) can come to Him (but this does not require that all drawn must come)
      7. Acts 2:37 – After hearing Peter preach people were pierced to the heart (prevenient grace at work) and then asked how to be saved.

      As we both know many of the passages cited have different interpretations based on suppositions and definitions.

      In “my scheme” these show that it is God’s will for all to be saved. And that it is also God’s will that salvation is graciously provided by Christ’s death. Further God decided before He created the world that He would save all those who come by faith & reject all those who refuse to come by faith. People are effected by the fall such that they can not in their natural state come to God by faith. Passages discuss the need for people to respond and that God both expects and waits for them to respond. Therefore it is reasonable to infer that He provides grace to counter the effects of the fall AND leaves the free will choice to the individual. That explains why although God wants all to be saved, and He provides the means for that salvation, not all are saved. Those who are not saved rejected the gracious gift of Christ and resisted the enabling grace.

      I know you don’t agree BUT this is an answer.

      • Mike,

        It is clear that further discussion with you would be fruitless. Since your mind is made up, I won’t try to confuse you with the facts any further. Not one of the Scriptures (even as you have misquoted them to suit your scheme) nor all of them together even hint at prevenient grace. That God’s published desire is that sinners not perish is not at issue. We agree on that point, but it has nothing to do with God removing the effects of total depravity in the unregenerate. I mistakenly took you for a person who could be honest with plain statements of Scripture. Please forgive me for wasting our time.

  14. Randy

    As before, iron sharpens iron, and you have helped me continue to think through my views. So for that I thank you. I would recommend you also reflect on your own view and consider that other interpretations are valid. Especially if you set aside Reformed presuppositions. However, it is clear both of us have made up our minds. 🙂

    I mistakenly took you for a person who could be honest with plain statements of Scripture.

    If by “plain statements”, you mean Augustinian/Calvinistic interpretations unknown to church history for the first 400 years, then you are right I don’t assume these to be the correct or only possible interpretations.

    Perhaps if there is a particular passage you would like to discuss, write up a post on your blog. But given the nature of comments and the scope of questions we discussed there was not time to develop/defend the interpretation of every passage I used. It is also why I provided links to prior posts where I dealt with some of these in more detail.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s