Who is "email"?
To be straightforward, whether or not a particular doctrine can have a certain effect on a person, according to our experience and opinion, is not really relevant. Just like Israel who thought it seemed good to move the ark on a new cart, pulled by ox (I Corinthians 13:1-3), you and I also may think something is good, becomes it seems good to us. Of course, as Uzzah can attest, that will not necessarily work out so well (I Chronicles 13:9-12; 15:13). Or, like the people, whom Jesus said would be shocked to learn of their error on Judgment day (Matthew 7:21-23), we may sincerely believe something to be true and approved by God, but that is not enough to make it true, much less redemptive. I believe the real question, with which I am sure you would agree, is, "What does the Scriptures say?".
So, I am happy to grant that I have misunderstood the intentions of Calvinism and the impact it has had on you personally. However, would you be willing to study the validity of that doctrine as compared with Scripture? We have a whole series of articles on the subject, comparing the major tenets as is typically embraced in Calvinism with what the Bible teaches. The index for the series is here:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... #calvinism
Most of essential questions that I would address would come directly from those articles. Actually, I think the passage you quoted stands as a good proof text against standard Calvinism:
Yes, God works in us. I would never argue against, nor diminish that fact. Therefore, I would oppose Catholic or Pelagic doctrine that emphasizes our meritorious works. However, I believe the Bible also teaches that we have a responsibility too - even in salvation. Furthermore, I believe that if we do not fulfill those conditions, we will not obtain mercy (repentance is just one condition, Luke 13:1-9). Well, much more could be said, but maybe we should start with this point - Total Inherited Depravity. I would not deny that men can become depraved (I Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:17-19; Romans 1:18-32), possibly even totally depraved (Hebrews 10:26-29). However, does the Bible teach we are born depraved, much less totally depraved? If not, it seems the entire foundation of Calvinism collapses, and Calvinism with it. Would you like to discuss this point? My initial thoughts are best represented here:Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
If you think I have misrepresented the appeal or results of this doctrine, please overlook that for now, because ultimately, all that matters is what God thinks on the subject, and there is only way to know that (Ephesians 3:3-5; II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3).
I greatly appreciate the grace and love that you expressed in your response! Often times Christians forget who we are in Christ and the brotherly love we are to express to each other for the sake of doctrine or theology. Jeremiah 2:13 is a good warning for both of us going into this discussion that while we might hold theology to a high regard, it is not God's truth and love and can not replace the innerancy of the Bible. This is important to any theological discussion because the corruption of our human nature gets in the way of understanding (Proverbs 28:26, Jeremiah 17:9). As you said, and Icompletely agreewith you,the most important thing is what God has to say on the matter.
However, for the sake of understanding in Christian love towards one another, I would like to also remind us that we are coming at the texts with two different points of view on how the texts should be read. Case in point is Phillippians 2:12-13. While you responded that these verses are a good proof text against Calvinism, as it pretains to this discussion, I see it as promoting my argument, because the action taken by God in verse 13superceeds the human actions of verse 12. Most of the verses that can be used to support the argument against pre-destination, perseverence of the saints, total depravity, limited atonement and irresistable grace can always be viewed under the light of Refomed theology as supporting it.
As is evident by your discussion of Calvinism, I believe that you have had various amounts of negative past encounters with people who adhere to Reformed theology. I am sorry that those people have left an impression of pervasive fatalism and excess freedom on you. This is in no way the intention of such doctrines. Since I have begun to associate myself with a Reformed church, I have yet to see any evidence that the teaching of total depravity eases one into a spiritually lax lifestyle. If anything, the idea that those who do not seek righteous lifes have not taken part in the spiritual rebirth is one that almost pushes towards legalism out of fear of hell.The teaching of total depravity,however, catches itself and keeps people from being legalistic by reminding them that none can earn the merit of God's grace. The desire to do God's will comes from the process of sanctification (Phillippians 2:12-13).
I would like to point out that I am very much aware of the arguments against Reformed theology. Growing up Southern Baptist and attending various non-denominational and Methodist events in my early college career, I was convinced that Reformedtheology was heretical until I came to those conclusions on my own after years of seeking God through his Word. Likewise, I am sure that you came to your conclusions after diligent seeking of God's truth which means that any discussion we have needs to not be one of expectations of change in view point of the other person, but simply two Christian brothers discussing God's innerrant Word in hopes of acheiving better understanding of His will and grace.
Your argument was well thought out and the verses you gave for proof text were excellent! I don't believe, however, that it was air-tight. Neitherdo Ipropose that the argument I am about to give in favor of total depravity is completely solid, because Idon't claim to possesses full knowledge of Biblical texts. However, total depravity is something I'm very familiar with, especially growing up Southern Baptist which, despite the vast differences of belief from church to church, are most always at least two-point Calvnist and teach some form of total depravity.
Like I said earlier, I can read the verses you gave on your site against total depravity without flenching. This is because there are a number of verses that supporttotal depravity, and it'sthrough these verses which I see the verses you gave against it and I do not find them sufficent to shatter the doctrine. I was surprised that you did not discuss any of the major verses used in support of total depravity but only those which discuss the depraved nature of sin. These verses, I believe,pose as serious stumbling blocks to the idea that we are not born into a fallen nature. The major verses used to argue that we are born fallenare Genesis 8:21, where God himself says that the heart of man is evil from his youth; Psalm 51:5, when David recognizesthat sin was with him at his conception; and in Romans 3:10-12,in which Pauldeclares thatno one seeks after God ordoes good. There are many others that directly support this proposition. In Genesis 6:5, we're told that the human heart is "evil continually." Romans 8:7, Paul discusses how the human mind itself is an enemy of God. Jermiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are "desperately wicked". And in Romans 7:18 Paul admits that there is nothing good in his flesh, and we logically apply that to our own lives and the lives of others.
Here I must also state that I'm not sure if your working definition of total depravity is the same as the definition used by one who follows Reformed theology. In our understanding, total depravity is not a state of sinfulnessand does not imply that sinfulness belongs to human nature, because sin doesn't (Ecclesiates 7:29). Instead it teaches that human nature is corrupt from birth and marked by an inclination toward sin. To quote someone much greater than myself whose name I don't know, "The doctrine of original sin makes the point that we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners, born with a nature enslaved to sin." Being born a sinner and inclined to sin does not mean that you are being judged for the sin of Adam. We will all be judged for our own sinful acts not for being a sinner.
Also, total depravity isn't just the idea that we are inclined towards sin and destined to sin, it is also our inability to believe in God or His word (Romans 8:7-8). John 6:44 tells us that Christ himself said that no one can come tohim unless Godmoves in that person's heart. This is why Paul calls this spiritual state a form of death because of our inability to act outside of God (Ephesians 2:1-5, Collosians 2:13).
Going back to Deuteronomy 1:39 and Luke 8:4-15, from the point of view of one who believes in total depravity, I have no problem with these verses at all. As with the verses in Deuteronomy, I believe, as domany people who believe in total depravity, that children are not aware of their actions as being good or evil. There is a notion of the "Age of Accountability" whichactuallyuses various verses such as Deuteronomy 1:39 as a proof text that God does not see children as responsible for their actions. This isn't a universally accepted belief as Catholics and Lutherans, as I am aware, believe that children are born guilty and judged like any other. But even in the WestminsterConfession ofFaiththere is a teaching that just because a child dies does not mean that that child goes to hell. It is also suggested that children in general are regenerated in death because of the various proof texts used with it (WCF X.III.) A child's knowledge of their sin does not negate the fact that they are sinners, however. In fact, all you have to do is look at anychildand see they are not innocent. The natural inclination of children is selfishness. People just are not born good.
As with Luke 8:4-15, this verse really has nothing on the doctrine of total depravity and I have heard it used many times in support of it. God's word does not go out void as is the example of the verses you gave and of the same story in Matthew 13. This does not prove that people aren't depraved, this is to show that God's word has power to regenerate, andis the true light in a very dark place. More apporpriately, these verses seem to hint at the inaccuracy of the doctrine of election, though I must say there are much better verses to do so and none of which I have come across that do so very well.
As I said, I'm sure that you will come to these verses with your own set of thoughts on them and way of viewing them. Also, I want to be sure that you understand that I wasn't trying to prove you wrong but ratherclarify what I feel is misunderstandings of Calvinistic and Reformed teaching. I would love to discuss this further and am interested in your response! My favorite topic of discussion is our Lord and his redemptive work. I hope that through discussion God's glory will shineand that our own respective view points will be shaped and molded to better reflect His grace!
Your Brother in Christ
Who is "email"?
Typically, I would answer your interpretation of these verses with what I believed were inconsistencies either with Scripture or your own logic. After many studies and informal, written debates with Calvinists, I would rather first try to cooperatively identify the fundamental cause for our division. I have written three brief articles on unity here, which may help give you some background for my interest in unity:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... html#unity
My question for you is this, "Is it possible for a Calvinist and non-Calvinist to come to a harmonized understanding of justification?" If you believe unity is possible, how can it be realized? Should we strive for unity on the topic of justification?
I do not believe that I fully understand the ultimate differences at large, but I believe there are divisive beliefs that are more influential than our views on justification alone. Consequently, if you will permit me, I would like to reverse my previous request (to study total, inherited depravity) and first discuss a few other general issues, which are enumerated here: (Actually, your response reminded me of these thoughts, formed after several previous studies.)
- Can two people come to unity on a broad, pervasive topic, like Calvinism? Many people with whom I study bring a sense of hopelessness. Consequently, they seem somewhat distant and unfeeling towards the discussion. Although I believe we are quite frail and prone to interpret the Scripture from our point of view (From what other reference point would we interpret it?), I still believe that we, even you and I, can come to harmony on these very points. So, I am bringing some hope, optimism, and expectation to this study, based on the following verses:
"... how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)" (Ephesians 3:3-4)
Paul states that we can understand his knowledge, when we read his writings. Peter recognized that some of Paul's writings were "difficult to understand" (II Peter 3:15-18); however, he did not say that they were impossible to understand, just hard to understand. Consequently, diligence is required, just as Paul noted in his own writings (II Timothy 2:15; see also II Peter 1:3-5).
- Even if understood properly, does the Scripture contain power to change those in error? Again, I have sensed some doubt towards the ultimate effectiveness of studying God's Word, but I am persuaded that it can convince, convict, and exhort:
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:3-5)
I hope you and I are not at war. I do not believe we are. Yet, error is among us. (We cannot both be correct.) Arguments that are contrary to God, His revelation, and His character are before us. And, against those doctrines, we are at war, whatever they may be. I am committed to the truth, as I hope and believe you are. Therefore, I trust that as truth becomes more apparent from our study we can run towards it - together. Can we tear down the strongholds of error and embrace the captivity of obedience towards Christ? Paul says we have effective, spiritual weapons that are "mighty in God". Therefore, I am confident that we can be converted to the truth on this point. But, what are these spiritual weapons that God has provided? I know of only one that is directly accessible to us today - the word of God (Ephesians 6:10-18, "take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God"). Please see also Romans 1:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12, which speak to the power of God's Word to both save and reveal - even our own character.
- Can the Bible be used to support multiple theological positions, such as Calvinism? From my experience with several people, it appears that some believe the Scripture is somehow vague, incomplete, or otherwise incapable of revealing God's will. They have seemed not only content, but reconciled with the notion that the Bible may support opposing positions on such diametrically disjointed views of redemption. However, I hold to the belief that the Bible teaches only one system of salvation for men. In fact, it seems that testing a doctrines consistency with Scripture is the primary, advisable method for verification:
"Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; ... For a bishop must be ... holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Titus 1:1-9)
First, please notice that God cannot lie. He is self-consistent, and His Word, the truth, and the life it instructs (godliness) is all wholly consistent. Contradiction is the obvious and detectable sign of error, whether it is tested against itself or especially Scripture. Furthermore, qualified bishops must be able to use God's Word (sound doctrine) to convict false-teachers of their error by illuminating their contradiction with God's Word! Therefore, God's Word only teaches one position, if any position, on any and every topic.
Yes, even the Devil quoted Scripture to make his arguments (Matthew 4:5-6); however, he, like many others, twisted Scriptures - making it say something that it does not really say, and that to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15-18)! When the Devil referenced God's Word, did Jesus fold or give up His case? No, He showed how the Devil misused the Scripture by quoting a complimentary passage (Matthew 4:7), and He continued to use the Bible to refute the Devil's arguments (Matthew 4:8-11). Therefore, apparent contradictions within God's Word should never be accepted. Rather, diligence should be applied in gathering the sum of God's Word to reconcile His revealed will and produce application for us.
- What is the place of anecdotal evidence and emotional arguments? As you have noted, we all have experiences, opinions, and prejudices on this topic. Not surprisingly, recollection of those experiences tend to support our viewpoints. For example, from my experience, I am amazed how good-hearted and generous the smallest of infants might be. Furthermore, I have not seen a tendency toward legalism among those who share my beliefs, but yet I have experienced a laziness and arrogance associated with Calvinism. ... My experience and your experience may say more about our prejudices through which we filter our memories, observations, and judgments than about the truth. Even if we were totally unbiased, we cannot escape the statement that "the just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). We are to "walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, we should not be surprised at the strong emotion evoked by dissonant ideas, neither should we divulge the experiences or expectations that seeded such emotion, because in the end, we are to be people that trust God's wisdom, not our own. Consequently, in my opinion, such anecdotal evidence and emotional arguments have no place in a discussion where God's Word is to reign supreme alone. Although never intended to this end, I believe that to even raise such evidence is to confuse the true issue, delay recognition, and possibly prevent conviction.
- What is the goal of this study? You mentioned that you did not expect us to be changed or converted, based on the study we have previously invested into this topic. There is some truthful realism embedded in that observation. The statistics of my experience show a similar story. However, I hope for a different end. It may take a lot of time, but I believe and hope that we can, not only realize harmony, but even unity upon God's Word!
Furthermore, I may or may not bring a heightened sense of urgency, which you may or may not share. I pray this does not offend you, but please consider this:
Whenever Calvinists (or faith-only advocates) have responded to Matthew 7:21-23 and Galatians 5:2-4, they have typically applied it to me, calling me legalistic and Pharisaical, implying that if I believe we must do anything to be saved, then I am invalidating grace and falling under condemnation of these verses. Can a man be saved apart from grace and separated from Christ? Clearly, no. Therefore, I must conclude that many Calvinists, if overt, would confess that I am reprobate and lost. Assuming they feel some compassion and love towards me, I hope this would generate some urgency on their part.
I am comfortable with their judgment, because one, their judgment is not the one that matters (I Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:4). And two, I am sympathetic with their position, because I also feel some sense of urgency for the other side's well-fare. Temporarily putting aside the command to seek unity among disciples (I Corinthians 1:10-13; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 17:20-23), if God requires baptism for the remission of sins, or anything else, and some believers have not obeyed, where does that put them? I cannot speak for God's eternal judgment (James 4:11-12), but surely I would recognize their potential jeopardy before God and seek to persuade them (II Corinthians 5:11, "knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men")! If persuaded, would such recognition entirely invalidate their previous service, integrity, or commitment? I do not think so. Instead, like Apollos or the men of Ephesus, when taught the way of God more accurately, how will good men respond (Acts 18:24-28)? Would they not even be baptized again, yet for the correct reason (Acts 19:1-5)?
I hope one day we can discuss baptism in the same loving manner, but I think we must first answer more fundamental questions, such as we are doing. I only mention this for the sake of full transparency, so you know where I am going, and so you will understand my level of concern. I may not be coming at this discussion with the same goal as you, and I want you to know that now, rather than being surprised later.
If you think I have overlooked something in compiling or ordering the above list, please let me know. I only ask that we consider these first four points, because I fear they can ultimately prove to be an underlying problem. I look forward to hearing from you. Hopefully, we are agreed on these points and can proceed.
May God help us both to have a sincere love of the truth (II Thessalonians 2:9-12),