Neutral Zone Infraction

The neutral zone is an area that is no larger than the width of a football. It is the zone that separates the offense and defense before the play starts. When a defensive player enters the neutral zone and causes an offensive player to commit a false start (move before the ball is snapped) they are flagged with a penalty known as a neutral zone infraction.

This is also a penalty that Calvinists are quick to charge Arminians with as well.

In “A Calvinist’s Understanding of Free Will”, C.Michael Patton writes (emphasis added) that

Arminians, […] believe in the doctrine of prevenient grace, which essentially neutralizes the will so that the inclination toward sin—the antagonism toward God—is relieved so that the person can make a true “free will” decision.

Later he writes that a “neutralized will amounts to perpetual indecision”. Patton asserts (emphasis added) the same thing in “Why I Reject the Arminian Doctrine of Prevenient Grace”:

Prevenient grace neutralizes the will, making the will completely unbiased toward good or evil. Therefore, this restored “free will” has a fifty-fifty shot of making the right choice. Right? This must be. The scales are completely balanced once God’s Prevenient grace has come upon a person.

Finally,  Randy Seiver (over at Truth Unchanging) echoes the idea of a neutralized will:

 If the will is free to choose other than it has chosen, would that not suggest that it is as inclined to choose what it does not want as it is to choose what it does want? Would that not suggest that, according to this view, the sinner is in a state of absolute neutrality?

Why do Calvinists throw the penalty flag? Continue reading

Young, Restless, & Reprobate?

If we look at the account across the three Synoptic Gospel accounts (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30) we notice several things about the Rich Young Ruler (RYR) as he approaches Jesus.

  1. He is running up to Jesus.
  2. He falls on his knees, which may be a sign of honor, but in this case is more likely a position of imploring (Matt 17:14-15; Mk 1:40).
  3. He addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher”.
  4. He asks what “good” must he do to gain/inherit eternal life.

The RYR has come with an urgent question and a desire to learn from Jesus, recognizing Him as one who teaches with authority (Matt 7:29). We can assume that he comes without an ill intent (unlike the Pharisees and scribes (Matt 19:3; 22:35; Mark 10:2; 12:13)), but is genuinely seeking to understand how to inherit eternal life (like Nicodemus in John 3).

Jesus’ response (as most commentators note) must have caught the RYR off guard.

Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

What was probably meant as a sign of respect has just become a theological lesson. This was probably Jesus’ way of forcing the young man to wrestle with the question: who do you say that I am? Continue reading

The $64,000 question and presuppositions

R.C Sproul, the popular Reformed pastor, author, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, asked the following question in his book: Chosen By God.

The $64,000 question is, “Does the Bible teach such a doctrine of prevenient grace? If so, where?”

And Tom Schreiner in his critique on prevenient grace (chapter 9 in Still Sovereign)  summed it up like this:

Prevenient grace is attractive because it solves so many problems, but it should be rejected because it cannot be exegetically vindicated

sproul_podium_actionBefore continuing I want to make three important observations:

1. Reformed and Arminian views both hold to the concepts and doctrine of original sin/total depravity. In summary that means that people, because of our fallen nature, cannot initiate a relationship with God or come to faith without God’s help.

2. Reformed and Arminian views both hold to the need for prevenient grace – a grace that precedes faith. This grace is given by God to restore our fallen nature and enable a person to come to faith.

3. The primary difference between Reformed and Arminian theologies is whether prevenient grace is resistible or not. Continue reading